Artisans in Paradise

Posted on: Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
Posted in: Travelog, 1st Stop: St. John, Latest Trip | Leave a comment

As part of their efforts to bring the past into the present, the Annaberg Ruins host local artisans to demonstrate island crafts several days a week.  The day of our visit, a master gardener took us on a tour of a perfectly maintained plot.  And atop the hill, an old-school chef treated us to fresh johnnycake.  

Bananas, Bay Leaf & Ripe Guava

Of many tastes offered, the sweetest was sugar cane!

It’s not easy maintaining a garden on St. John.  With rocky soil, a long dry season, and steep hills, it takes a patient and persistent master gardener to bring fruits to hard labor.  There are some, though, including the gentleman who helps keep Annaberg in bloom.  The garden there includes papaya, bananas, guava, and mango trees.  And lower on the ground, many herbs like bay leaf (“smells like Old Spice after shave”) and lemon basil flourish.  

There was plenty to taste, including the herbs and sweet guava.  But best of all (especially for the kids) was sliced up stalks of sugar cane.  “You can chew and suck it, but don’t eat it!”  

Fresh Johnnycake Cooked in a Hot-Coal Pot

The chef served up a delicious taste of tradition.

Johnnycake is a local delicacy–a sweet, flat bread that can be cooked or fried.  Our chef prefers to bake it, and the warm, crumbly samples were so delicious I’d not change a thing.  Hot-coal cooking is still popular with locals, perhaps to keep the heat outside the house.  Light coals, spread them out, and then place a large cast-iron pot over it.  You can cook most anything in there, from stews to fritters to, of course, johnnycake.  

This chef added the extra step of putting a cover full of hot coals on top of the pot.  That way, the heat comes from all directions–and makes for a nice, crispy crust.

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