Long time readers of this blog will recall how this used to be a regular feature for the first year and a half. A few weeks ago I resurrected an old post about a favorite beach. Today I'll share a favorite person, Nanzo.
When you move to another country and away from every friend and family member you've ever known it can be quite an adjustment. It's the first day of school on a grander scale. Will they like me? Will I make any friends? Will they think I am weird and ignore me? At least after the first day of kindergarten you get to go home to your family who ideally will receive you with love and acceptance. When you disembark from the plane you're stuck in the classroom for a while. That's not to say I didn't want to be in Trinidad. I was anxious to be there and excited to settle in. Nonetheless, there's a great deal of uncertainty with a move of such magnitude.
We were tremendously blessed with good friends. One set of friends in particular became our family. This couple, who we will call Ren and Flora, had a couple of young girls who were playmate age for Diana. As was not entirely unheard of in Trinidad at that time, they shared an address with extended family. They lived in a small downstairs apartment. A single brother was next door in another downstairs apartment. Ren's mother, Nanzo, had the upstairs as her home, the home where she raised her family.
We quickly became close friends with Ren and Flora and their girls. We spent a lot of time liming (to lime: Trini slang for hanging out with friends, and yes, that's where my moniker comes from) at each other's houses. In quick order we were being invited to family events such as birthdays and Sunday dinner. We got to know the various siblings and their children. Presiding over them all was Nanzo, who had begun to introduce us to friends and neighbors as her white kids. May I just say that having someone who is a family and village matriarch welcome you so completely and then introduce you so warmly goes a long way to making you feel like you really belong.
Going back to the many gatherings we attended, you must know meal preparation for a Sunday dinner was a group affair. Pets was known for her callaloo (probably the closest thing to a national dish in Trinidad because the Africans and Indians eat it with both creole and Indian food). Folks took turns providing the various curries. I was often asked to provide baked pineapple. Nanzo always did the roti (Indian flat bread).
Twice when I returned to Trinidad for brief visits I took my best pal Gwen. Nanzo received her with great warmth and love as well. Gwen adored Nanzo and asked repeatedly to show her how to cook Indian food. Nanzo said certain things had to happen for Gwen to be ready for her lessons though. Nanzo had coached me in technique a little but I knew even as her white daughter that I still had some time before I was entirely approved in the kitchen. Flora and her sister had been my main teachers in Trini cuisine with some advice and lessons from a couple of the students Mr. Lime was tutoring academically.
By the time I left Trinidad I was able to adequately produce quite a number of local dishes including roti, which is something I still make periodically, but almost always on a birthday since it is a family favorite.
Back in December Diana wanted to learn to make roti herself. Recently she kneaded and rolled her first solo batch, though I fried because it's just easier to keep the rhythm with two cooks. As I was frying up the dough, Calypso came up to me and asked, "Will you please teach me to make roti soon? I've always thought in the back of my head I won't be really grown up until I know how to make roti."
I smiled,said yes, and told her Nanzo will be so proud.