Diane Sawyer Newsletter/Blog #10 August 2013

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello! This newsletter comes to you with special good wishes as you enjoy the last day of August. The US daily weather map has shown that on many days Florida, where many of you live, was not the hottest state in the nation. Okay, maybe the most humid, but not the hottest. For today and Labor Day, which is coming up soon, think picnics (indoors or outdoors), cool drinks, and fun times with family and friends. Above all, don’t make Labor Day laborious!

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

Enjoy the hardcover, paperback and e-book editions, available on Amazon and other on-line sites. (Amazon reports a temporary production delay of the paperbacks.)

 

This and That

Here are the ten interesting facts about cats that I promised you as a follow-up to the travel article about the city of York’s famous Cat Trail.

  • The Egyptian Mau is probably the oldest breed of cat.
  • In the original Italian version of Cinderella, the benevolent fairy godmother figure was a cat.
  • The first cartoon cat was Felix the Cat in 1919.
  • The largest known litter ever produced was 19 kittens. 15 survived.
  • The biggest wildcat today is the Siberian Tiger. It can be more than 12 feet long and weigh up to 700 pounds.
  • The most popular pedigreed cat is the Persian cat, followed by the Main Coon cat and the Siamese cat.
  • A cat’s nose pad is ridged with a unique pattern, just like the fingerprint of a human.
  • The technical term for a cat’s hairball is a “bezoar.” (Impress your friends with that one!)
  • Female cats tend to be right pawed, while male cats are more often left pawed. Did you know that 90% of humans are right-handed? (A big hello to my many lefty friends and family members!!!)
  • There are more than 500 million domestic cats in the world.
  • Cats are North America’s most popular pets. There are 73 million cats compared to 63 million dogs.
  • A cat can jump up 5 times its own height in a single bound.
  • According to Hebrew legend, Noah prayed to God for help protecting all the food he stored on the ark from being eaten by rats. God’s response? God made the lion sneeze, and out popped a cat!

 

Travel

Many of you enjoyed last month’s piece about Morocco with all its exotic sights, sounds, aromas. This time, I would like to share with you a short essay I wrote after a Caribbean cruise several years ago. Even now the words help me recall a sweet memory of a special person…

 

Shielding our eyes from the bright Caribbean sun, my husband and I descended the gangway of the Ruby Princess to Roseau, the capital city of Dominica (doh-muh-NEEK-uh). Many passengers were lining up for bus tours to the island’s rainforests, waterfalls, and diving sites. We opted instead for a leisurely walk around town by ourselves and conversations with the local people.

We had learned from previous visits that Dominica, named by Christopher Columbus for Sunday, the day of the week he’d arrived there, is slower-paced and less commercial than many of the Caribbean islands. Conversations are welcomed. Discussion and story-telling are art forms. Time spent talking is time well spent.

A five-minute walk took us to our favorite stop, the marketplace. The merchants invited us to visit their booths, nestled beneath a roof of umbrellas, awnings, and the leafy branches of ficus trees. What a feast for the senses. Lilting speech, a mix of English and French Creole… Tables overflowing with handcrafted wood carvings, basketwork, and jewelry… Colorful print dresses hanging from branches… Wind chimes jingling… Exotic aromas escaping from spice packets.

Many conversations and many topics later, we came to the last booth, beneath a sprawling ficus tree.

“Welcome to my shady spot. I am Marie,” said the petite woman with pinned-up braids. “Please take a look,” she said, sweeping her hand across the table. She smoothed her white blouse and dark skirt printed with crimson heliconia flowers.

I commented on the pretty necklace of stones that she’d painted aqua.

“It is not a stone, Madame,” Marie said politely. “It is the calabash.”

“I don’t have any idea what that is,” I admitted.

“I think it’s a fruit,” my husband, the crossword puzzle fan, said. “But I’m not sure what it looks like.”

“I will show you the calabash,” Marie said enthusiastically. She rifled through a bag of her colorful goods, nestled among the gnarly ficus roots.

“See?” She held up a beige hollowed-out object, larger than her hand, shaped like a turtle shell.

“It is a fruit,” she said. “You eat it when the skin is still green and young. You make things from it when the skin is brown.” She smiled a warm friendly smile. “I love the calabash.”

She pressed the fruit to her heart. “It means everything to me. When I was a little girl, my father gave a calabash to me and to each of my brothers and sisters. The calabash comes in many sizes. My older sister’s calabash was bigger than mine. My younger sister’s was smaller.”

She offered it to us. We took turns holding it as Marie continued, “Our father cooked our dinner in a pot and scooped it into our calabash. It is like a bowl. When we were thirsty, our father poured water into our calabash and we drank. It is like a cup.”

A far-away look in Marie’s eyes told me she was remembering the past.

“Our father cut two holes in a large calabash, tied a rope through the holes, and dipped it into the river. He collected water and poured it into our calabash. It is like a bucket.”

She smiled. “He give us everything we need. He give us the calabash.”

I was taken by Marie’s respect and love for her father. “I would like to hear more about you and your father,” I said, running my fingertips across the smooth calabash shell.

Her eyes twinkled with mischief. “Sometimes I was a bad girl.” She covered her mouth with her hand to stifle her laughter. “One day my sister and I played, doing silly things. I balanced a calabash on my head and walked quickly across the stones in the river.”

She extended her hands out from her sides like a tightrope walker. “My foot slipped. The calabash fell and broke. I was ashamed to tell my father what I had done. But he saw my face and he knew. He said, ‘Do not worry. We have many calabash.’ He took one from high on the tree. He cut it in half with one stroke of his machete and scooped out the inside. He placed it over a cooking fire to dry it and purify it.”

She sighed. “I had a new calabash and I was so happy.”

My husband and I thanked Marie for sharing the story with us and said our goodbyes. We left the marketplace and spent the rest of the morning visiting the Anglican Church, the State House and the House of Assembly, the Fort Young Hotel (with historic stories dating from its days as a British fort), the visitor center, and the public library, where the shutters were folded back and warm breezes wafted through the wide-open windows that had no glass panes or screens. We heard stories in those places too. But it is Marie’s reminiscences that are etched in my memory of Dominica.

Marie knew for certain what many daughters and sons from around the world may doubt throughout their entire lives. Her father loved her very much. She has proof of his love. She has a calabash that even to this day she keeps among her prized possessions.

 

Cooking Delights

Do you remember when everybody ate everything? Now with low-salt, no dairy, lactose intolerance, vegetarian, fruitarian, low-carbs, organic, and other dietary preferences, it’s hard to find a dish that will please everyone. Well, consider this choice, Healthy Salad, which is delicious, nutritious, and crowd-pleasing. Supposedly it serves 20, but I think 10 people can finish it off with no problem.
Ingredients:

1 pound package yellow rice, cooked and cooled

1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and thoroughly drained

1 red pepper diced

1 cup chopped scallions

1 10-oz package frozen green peas, thawed

1 15-oz can cut corn, drained

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup extra-light olive oil

juice of 2 limes

 

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients, and season to taste with salt (or salt substitute), pepper, and more lime juice. Refrigerate several hours or, preferably, overnight. Serves 20.

Bon appétit!

Fondly,

Diane

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