Cocoa Butter and Tonka
born on a ship sailing towards Trinidad," "you know what my
parents named me on the boat?" asked the diminutive old lady in
no clue," Juggernaut was perplexed.
make sense, being born on ocean, and samudra means ocean,"
Juggernaut tried to make a sense of out of an unusual
I married a Muslim and he changed my name to Bagum," the old lady
summarized her life changing experience in a few short
Juggernaut met the old lady on a farm in the outback during his
roaming days through the island to break boredom while looking
for a job. Begum lived alone in a small cinder block home looking
after a small cocoa plantation that accounted for less than an
acre or so. She was not even sure where her property boundaries
some weekends, Juggernaut spent time with Bagum helping her with
cutlassing or cutting grass weeds using a machete. It is a hard
job; he wondered how the old lady worked whole day on the farm.
She always walked with a sharp machete as if it is her hand
ornament. She wore a scarf all the time to cover her head, Indian
style and spoke English with pure local accent sometimes inter
mixing with few Indian words like 'beta' ' pani' and 'roti.'
used the machete effortlessly to cut loose red ripe cocoa pods
from the tree and rip open the pods to expose the cocoa beans
while Juggernaut enjoyed eating the sweet pulp that surround the
beans. The pulp tastes just like Custard-Apple. The separated
beans were sun dried on a metal wire mesh and ground to make
pulp. The pulp is highly flavored and extremely greasy with cocoa
butter, and tasted bitter. When mixed with hot milk and sugar,
there is nothing that compares with this homemade cocoa milk
drink with so much flavored cocoa fat floating in the cup; the
after taste lingers in the mouth for hours after drinking
the cocoa trees were tall Tonka Bean trees that provided needed
shade to cocoa trees. These trees shed long pods that have black
Tonka beans. The beans when crushed has sweet smell like vanilla,
almost one is tempted to taste them. Begum sold Cocoa and Tonka
beans to a trader in export business. Apparently Tonka beans are
used in making scented candles and lotions, and some even use in
food preparation for flavor.
Working with Begum, Juggernaut learned how to use machete
effortlessly to cut weeds or rip cocoa pods. She lived alone with
her parrot as old as she was in birdie years. Begum has a wealth
of information on cocoa farming and Tonka Beans, whatever it is
worth. Begum lived of the land; growing vegetables and minding
few hens for eggs and meat. Her needs for frugal living were
simple; occasionally she shopped at Roy's Rum shop for staples
and a bottle of rum. When it comes to cooking, she curried
everything from chicken to bodie (long Indian pale green beans);
for breakfast it was roti (Indian flat bread) and a piece of
curried chicken, for lunch again roti and a piece of curried
chicken and for the dinner white rice, greens, sometimes dahl
(boiled split peas paste) and piece of curried chicken.
wish you make stew chicken for a change," suggested Juggernaut
she did; with tomatoes, scallion with soy sauce and a dash of
'Angostura Bitters' that tasted and smelled like cardamom. The
Island is known for producing the world famous 'Angostura
Aromatic Bitters' used to flavor drinks and some dishes.
Begum believed in God Almighty but
never mentioned religion by any name. She never said, she was
tired of working.
hard day working in the field, Juggernaut sit with her on her
front wooden porch making ole' talk, drinking rum and coke and
smoking 'Broadway' cigarette, the only brand Begum like for it is
strong though Juggernaut liked ' Du Maurier' brand for its light
taste. When it comes to cricket, she was discriminatory in the
sense she loved only Indian team though she has a soft spot for
Pakistani team; she always talked about old time Indian Cricket
players like Nari Contractor and how he got hurt bad from a fast
ball bowled by famous West Indian bowler Charlie Griffith. Among Cricketers' she loved
Rohan Kanhai from Guyana. "He can bat you know, made big scores
in test matches," "I understand he likes to drink, we Indians
like to drink rum, nah," she said looking at the 'Old Oak' rum
bottle, half empty. Juggernaut drank more than his share. Smoking
Broadway cigarette and drinking rum went hand in hand; smoking
was a catalyst for drinking.
"You listen to calypso all the time," "for an Indian you
are different," said Begum watching Juggernaut listening to
calypso music on radio.
"Yeah, I love calypso."
"Whom you like?"
"Sparrow, Kitchener and Shadow," "once I am done with
studies I start writing calypso."
"What you write about?"
"You go write and let me hear when you done
"I may write about cocoa butter and tonka beans, and curry
"You are a saga boy now," "you never go back home, I know
that," said Begum looking at Juggernaut making dance movements to
loud calypso music.
Drinking hot chocolate milk
brings back memories of wiry old Begum with a head scarf, a
cigarette dangling from her mouth and a machete in her hand ready
to work at any time of the day.