Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Years Day Cook Up

Ingredients ready for New Years Day Cook Up

Tyrrel Bay, Harvey Vale Carriacou WI.
Levi's place
We left Levi's place around 3:45 am New Years Day with an invitation to come back the next day -er- later that day to his cook up.  "Come around 12 or so."  "But we want to help you.  What time should be be here to help."  "Oh, ok.  Come in the morning.  We starting in the morning.  I will be here all the way through.  I not sleeping."  Okay.
Levi in action

Yeah right!  We got up around 9'ish but didn't get motivated to get off the boat until mid afternoon.  We didn't really hear any music so we didn't think much was happening ashore.  "Let's just run in for a look."  We said we would.  Plus Tom needed to meet with Choka to discuss the drum Choka is going to build Tom.  We didn't take the dinghy light but experience told me to turn on our anchor light just in case.
Cook Up central

Just as he had said, Levi was in full cook up mode.  The empty lot between his place and the corner was a hub of activity.  Four separate fires were burning with huge pots over them, topped with hand made lids of corrugated tin, with small bricks on top to keep the lid in place.
The pots are a boiling
 The fire structures were brilliant.  Three large stone/cinder blocks set a few feet apart in a circle.  Logs 3 ft long and 6" in diameter lay in between the stones/cinder blocks into the center.  The fire of course was in the center of the stones.  Because the logs were as long as they were, the ends stayed cool and could be pulled back or pushed up to change the temperature of the fire for various heat needed for cooking.
Brilliant way to control the heat

Levi had a few key helpers.  Many we recognized from the night before...ehm....earlier that morning.  We apologized for being late.  "Oh no problem, no problem.  Happy New Years" with hugs all around.  Other milled about and many drove by, stopping on the street to wish Levi "Happy New Year."   We gave fists bumps, hugs, and hand shakes to several, "Happy New Year."  Many people we had met the night before....ehm....earlier that morning at Levi's.  "Good to see you again.  Happy New Year.  You want to dance some more."  "Um, maybe later.  I'm still a little tired."


Tom went off to Chokas and I sat on the porch at Levi's just taking it all in.  
Provisions - breadfruit, plantains, yams

In the pots:  pork, peas, provisions and and unknown liquid.  I found out later that the curried mutton and rice had already been cooked and taken inside for serving later.  
Nap time
Music, beer, rum and smoke kept the cooks going, although one or two "helpers" napped.  It was obvious that Levi was in his element.  This was his day, his event.  I visited with a local about it.  "Is this a traditional New's Day thing?"  Michael said "Well often someone you know will be doing a cook up but it won't necessarily be these foods.  Levi has been doing this for years.  He learned long ago how to do this.  It's really quite smart you know.  This will cost him minimal.  He does this each year as a way to say think you to his customers.  I am a customer and therefore I am here.  And so are you."  
Levi always stirring and tasting

More people arrived.  It was as if New Years Eve would start again, but more low key.  Levi presided over everything.  Lifting a lid here to stir the pot and tasting the one there, adding spices off a make shift table. 
Adding the cornmeal
Stirring, stirring, stirring

Satisfied that the broth tasted correct, it was time to make the Coo Coo.  This was the thing I was most interested to see and hopefully help with.  Coo Coo is a Caribbean version of polenta.  It's cornmeal that is cooked with a special broth made up of seasonings but most importantly of coconut water and the squeezing of grated fresh coconuts.  The cooked cornmeal is then rolled into balls using a special method.  But first, the cooking of the cornmeal.  Levi was cooking in hug quantities.  He stirred while an assistant poured what looked like a 20 lbs sack of cornmeal into the huge pot.  If you have ever stirred cornmeal or polenta or any other sort stiff batter by hand, you know how tough that can be.  Levi was stirring this huge pot with a long smooth stick using all his body.  It brought several laughs and comments from on lookers.  Many locals stopped to take pics of the cook up in progress.
Peas get carried in for serving

Provisions are ready

More people showed up.  More beer, more rum, more smoke,  The peas were declared done.  A rope was fitted around the rim of the huge pot and three burly assistants carefully lifted it off the fire and carried it up the ramp into Levi's joint.  The provisions finished cooking as well.  Plantains, breadfruit, and yams sat cooling on top the lid that had covered that pot.  Later an assistant cut those into bit size pieces.  Levi occasionally stirred the cornmeal, adding water as needed, pulling the logs out further to reduce the heat.  
Sacred lean-to....FYI wifi sign is a joke
The pace of the music from Levi's as well as Lambi Queen two doors down picked up along with more people.  Competing music mind you but that is common.  We found ourselves sitting in the little lean-to in between the two, right next to the empty lot that was cook up central.  I had always considered this lean-to a sacred locals only spot.  No matter when we pass by this spot, it was always manned by locals limin - no ex-pats, no cruisers, no tourist, and definitely no charters.  Now suddenly we were sitting there, waiting to help Levi.  It felt like a privilege.  
It's ready
Another few stirs of the cornmeal and it was declared done - the smooth stirring stick would stand up right in the pot by itself.  Also, Levi tasted it and said "it ready."  Time to roll the CooCoo.  We were given small margarine bowls.  Levi put scoops of the cooked cornmeal into each bowl, anywhere from 1/2c to 3/4c and then we shook the bowl causing the contents to roll around forming a ball.  You occasionally had to shake a different way to fill in any spaces in your ball.  It wasn't hard but it wasn't took a little practice.  
Rolling the CooCoo

Tom gives it a go

Originally it was just Diane and Joanne (from Lumbadive) me, and a helper that instructed us. Comments from the peanut gallery aka our husbands brought attempts by them to master the CooCoo rolling.  Richard's CooCoo balls had the shape of lemons and several of Tom's were more log shaped in the beginning.  Sylvian tried once and then opted to be the guy transporting the trays we filled with our rolled balls of CooCoo.  Much laughter ensued.  It was a big pot of cornmeal and our wrists got tired but we hung in there and got it all rolled.  Although Diane did eat one of hers waiting for another pan to put them in.

The guys give it a try
Levi dishing, Diane rolling
Last two - Diane double fisting

The food line had already formed out the door of Leavi's place before we finished rolling the CooCoo.  People with plates of food poured out into the porch and into the street.  Young, old, regular customers and distinguished looking older ladies of the village who didn't seem as likely to be regular customer's all came to partake in Levi's cook up.  We stood in line patiently, edging forward slowly.  A single table had been borrowed from Lambi Queen and was center in the normal empty room that makes up Levi's place.  A few kids and mom's occupied the sole bench along the wall.  Two women, one was Levi's niece, the other was probably a relative as well, served people as we snaked around the table.  

One ball of CooCoo and one of rice on each plate.  The curried mutton was already running low as were the provisions.  A scoop of peas topped with stewed pork pieces and a little pork gravy on top the  CooCoo and rice balls filled our plates.  Tom gather a plate for Choka since he is not able to stand in line due to the bends from a diving accident.  We sat in the sacred lean-to and ate.  Yum.  

People continued to lime about wishing each other "Happy New Years."  A few cruisers showed up.  Some charter boat people wondered by wide eyed - taking pics as they went.  While it seemed this might be another late night for some, we were soon yawning and decided to head home.  We couldn't find Levi to thank him.  We assumed he was off getting a well deserved nap.  However, I seriously doubt it.  This was still his day.

No comments:

Post a Comment