Life Aboard LULU

November 21, 2001 (Happy Thanksgiving)
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Dear Everyone

Don't want you any of you guys to worry, we found a turkey in Porlamar, with even an American label, though it's not an official Butterball. We will also be having most ot the trimmings. Jackie and I dried our own bread cubes from fresh bread, I've got canned cranberries, she's making a banana bread, I've got mulling. The only hitch is I made a jello mold (the real strawberry-pineapple-banana-kind my kids all loved, not the ersatz apricot one I've been making of late; however, being limited in the pot-storage department, I had no bundt pan I had to make it in a mixing bowl. And my memory for the steps involved was a little rusty. Thus, when I put in the last level I forgot to wait to add the fruit, so that part sort of collapsed in on itself, so the clear ruby red is a bit like murky, sour-creamy borscht. I guess it won't look as good, but will definitely taste as good. In an interesting bit of historical irony, around the holiday table will be 4 full-blooded Brits. If you don't get the irony, you'll have to rake back in your memories to that happy harvest 400-some-odd years ago. Yesterday afternoon we had a lobster feast on the beach here in Tortuga -- a stroke of divine inspiration in the deserted tropical island department. None-turquoiser. White sand goes to 11. (Those of you who, like most of our kids, have committed Spinal Tap to memory, will understand that metaphor.) The two Brit guys, Gary and I dinghied over to one of the 3 fishermen's camps at this particular anchorage, Herradura. I trotted out my 1st year freshman-high-school Spanish "Tiene langoustes? for, "Do you have lobsters?"

"Si" (Easy enough to understand.You need to know, none of the Venezolanos, especially in the villages, speak anything close to high Castilian; nothing they say even closely relates to the school Spanish we learned in Merida and they speak at roughly an Indianapolis-speedway cadence. Plus, people who live a couple of miles away from each other can speak as differently as a New Yorker and a N'Yawlean. So just because we could understand the Meridians, who speak slower in general, doesn't mean we can understand a damn thing anywhere else. But I digress, yet again.)

So "Cuanto cuestan?" I asked.

"8,000 Bolivares (Bs) para kilo." (Which is roughly $12 a kilo or $5-something a pound.)

So far I wasn't even breathing hard. I passed easily down to the trickier stuff

"Puede cocinarlas para nosotros? " (Sorry, I don't have one of those upside down question marks that go in front of written Spanish questions.) "Can you cook them for us?"

"Si" (So far we were golden "de oro," I think.)

Now I was finallly using my Merida lessons, but only up to Nivel Tres (Level 3) and by the end I had finished "Si compraremos todas las langoustes, puede darmi un discuento?" If we buy all your lobsters, can you give me a discount?" That verbal sleight of hand got us 500Bs per kilo off. Plus, for buying all 8 of their lobsters--and if we had 4 "C" batteries and (hopeful smiles) "un poco de rhum? "-they only weighed 7 and threw in the smallest one (small being probably 1 1/2 pounds or more.) Total cost was 71,150 Bolivares (or $100 bucks, or $15 for each of the 7 couples who shared in the feast..

The rum, by the way, was (they pointed) "para los negros," the darkest guys in the crew and lowest, it seems, on the totem pole, the ones cleaning the nets in the hot sun . This black guy thing I didn't believe for one second. When I asked dubiously "Esto es la verdad?" the toothless but otherwise good looking spokesman' rattled off a battery of Spanish I must confess I missed completely. So he translated with some running-in-place-huffing-and-puffing charade which we understood as "I'm a runner, in training." I had my doubts considering the treeless island, the equatorial sun, his shoelessness and the100-degree (minimum) sand, but, it could have been the truth. These guys deserve their rum they work incredibly hard in desolate conditions leave their women and children in Porlamar or Pampatar or on the mainland somewhere, come down here to these lean-tos on the beach, sleep in hammocks or on straw mats, stay for a week or two fishing the surrounding waters, stone washing their jeans or shorts every 3 or 4 days on the edge of the sand and I guess they cook up some of the catch at night--nothing is grown on this island and there are no stores.

So back to our lobster beach party Everyone was to bring a side dish, which is standard for cruiser beach or boat or barbecue parties. The variety was hardly Jewish-wedding worthy. Left to their own devices 3 out of 7 boats made cole slaw-cabbage is the longest lasting fresh vegetable around--like months--so everyone usually has some. I, unable to do without a little Fra Diavolo sauce around my lobster, made that and threw the extra (naturally there was extra) on a pound of ziti. Carolyn, a former Singaporian who is married to a former Tulsan, did her native thing--a saffrony-rice casserole. And the woman who planned on bringing dessert screwed up her brownies (or judging from her size, ate them all before they even left the pan) brought a bunch of mini Halloween candies. It was really great and when we get to a shore computer I'll send the website a few pictures of the perfect sand beach and the sunset with the boats at anchor.

Oh--and before I wish you all wonderful Thanksgivings and Bin Laden a long and painful death and the world in general more peace--by the way, the fishermen totally rejected the white rum Gary and I donated. They had in mind brown. Not, of course, that they were going to drink it!

It's nice to know fishermen--even on deserted islands--still have their standards.

Okay, gotta run; got to start the stuffing!

Love and Happy Thanksgiving to you all, 

Louise and Gary


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