Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Trini Tuesday-Nanzo

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.


KFarmer said...

Love that sharing of knowledge handed down from one to another~ You're beautiful little girls are growing up :)

G-Man said...

Will you teach me to make "Shark and Bake"?

truckdriver_sefl said...

Nothing like good true friends......

Craver Vii said...

Roti sounds gooooood!

"Will they like me? Will I make any friends? Will they think I am weird and ignore me?"
Yes, yes, absolutely, and not likely!

This world is a because of the Nanzos. :-)

Suldog said...

As when you told us a couple during your visit here, I always enjoy your tales of Trinidad. I've traveled much of the world, but I really never have lived in another culture; that is, been anything more than a tourist. I greatly admire your willingness to place yourself wholly into a place and set of customs initially foreign to your own, yet to be so willing to absorb those customs - and befriend those people - that they, in turn, love you and treat you as family. What a great blessing!

S said...

I can relate!
I still make Shakuntula tea and dosa that Kishores mom taught me to make.
But I cannot drink the tea...wayyy too much caffiene for me. I make it for Ratburn and guests.

Waits for the day when Little Rita will ask to come to India with me, so I dont have to drag her there kicking and screaming.

Desmond Jones said...

What Suldog said. . . Such a special gift for you to have been able to live - really LIVE, not just visit - in another culture (which sounds like a positively delightful, eclectic mix all on its own), and to have been embraced and befriended by the folks you met there.

And one of my favorite parts of 'learning' another culture is the food. Our family hosted a Nigerian graduate student for a year, and on a couple occasions, we got him to cook up something 'from home' for us. . . And how wonderful that your Trini experience has translated into your own family culture, to the point that your daughters want to make it their own. . . That's just rich.

And now I'm wondering about the etymology of that use of the word 'to lime' for relaxed, friendly story-telling - how did that word come to be used in that way?

Cocotte said...

What a wonderful family tradition you are passing down from your "other" family.

Cheffie-Mom said...

Celebrating friendships and passing down recipes from one generation to the next is the best!

Anonymous said...

I wondered where Lime came from :) How cool to know now!

Baking as a rite of passage... how wonderful that your daughters are wanting to keep the heritage and family rite in place! :)

Fred said...

Great story. We've lived in many places and were always faced with the same kind of situation. England was the hardest place to make friends becuase the neighbors just plain stuck to themselves. In Richmond, virtually every house on our street had children, so we became fast friends with many people there.

Nice to learn where the moniker came from.

Hilary said...

What a great story. Nanzo and family sound like wonderful people and no doubt they recognized that in you too.

Mona said...

I cook rotis everyday in my kitchen, each time from scratch ( making fresh dough) And I can make fifty at a go!

Your friends from Trinidad sound really cool!

Jazz said...

Fortunately I have no one to pass my culinary skills on to.

Yep it is fortunate indeed.

Hilary said...

Your new "book" has been published on my blog. ;)

Anonymous said...

Terrific post Lime. Love these peeks into other cultures.