Jamaica is my playground. I stay in ‘West End’ near Negril, slightly up the hill in a small cabin; I cook for myself and I walk to a tiny beach. I drink Sorrel, eat Sweet Sop, Sour Sop, Aki, Starapple, Mango, Guava and Tamarind, but I rarely seek a fancy Jamaican restaurant; i save that for the city.
Here’s why: Sisters Caribbean Cuisine in Harlem will serve me more sophisticated food, and still give me a nice, tall glass of icy Sorrel, the thing I most crave. It’s made from flower petals for God’s sake—how can one resist? It’s tart, sweet, dark purple, quenches and dries my slippery, hot mouth on first gulp.
In New York most of my getting to Harlem is done via CitiBike so by the time I get there I’m thirsty. Outside, Sisters has a bench, Marcus Garvey Park (with its SummerStage concert series) kitty-corner, and a hot breeze in the summer. Sorrell in hand, I’m in ‘Jamaica’, but only 25 minutes from home.
Inside, there’s Trinidadian chicken, curry flavoured rotis, jerk chicken (which everywhere is only an imitation of the Jamaican thing), salt cod, dirty rice, yams, greens with okra and many other, west African temptations, very reasonably priced. Highly recommended: oxtail stew. My sorrell costs about the same as coffee in my neighbourhood.
While you’re reading, please read further—this charming, prize-winning, sweet short story about sweet sop. You’ll smile, which is very, very good for you.
You may bring your own wine.