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Cocoa Butter and Tonka Beans (standard:travel stories, 931 words)
Author: JuggernautAdded: May 08 2011Views/Reads: 2158/960Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A short story about an old and wiry woman living along on a small Cocoa Plantation on an island.

Cocoa Butter and Tonka Beans 

Subba Rao 

“I born on a ship sailing towards Trinidad,” “you know what my parents
named me on the boat?” asked the diminutive old lady in late seventies. 

“Umm, no clue,” Juggernaut was perplexed. 


“That make sense, being born on ocean, and samudra means ocean,”
Juggernaut tried to make a sense of out of an unusual name. 

“Then I married a Muslim and he changed my name to Bagum,” the old lady
summarized her life changing experience in a few short sentences. 

Juggernaut met the old lady on a farm in the outback during his roaming
days through the island to break boredom while looking for a job. Begum 
lived alone in a small cinder block home looking after a small cocoa 
plantation that accounted for less than an acre or so.  She was not 
even sure where her property boundaries were. 

On some weekends, Juggernaut spent time with Bagum helping her with
cutlassing or cutting grass weeds using a machete.  It is a hard job; 
he wondered how the old lady worked whole day on the farm.  She always 
walked with a sharp machete as if it is her hand ornament. She wore a 
scarf all the time to cover her head, Indian style and spoke English 
with pure local accent sometimes inter mixing with few Indian words 
like ‘beta' ‘ pani' and ‘roti.' 

Begum used the machete effortlessly to cut loose red ripe cocoa pods
from the tree and rip open the pods to expose the cocoa beans while 
Juggernaut enjoyed eating the sweet pulp that surround the beans.  The 
pulp tastes just like Custard-Apple.  The separated beans were sun 
dried on a metal wire mesh and ground to make pulp. The pulp is highly 
flavored and extremely greasy with cocoa butter, and tasted bitter.  
When mixed with hot milk and sugar, there is nothing that compares with 
this homemade cocoa milk drink with so much flavored cocoa fat floating 
in the cup; the after taste lingers in the mouth for hours after 
drinking it. 

Among the cocoa trees were tall Tonka Bean trees that provided needed
shade to cocoa trees.  These trees shed long pods that have black Tonka 
beans.  The beans when crushed has sweet smell like vanilla, almost one 
is tempted to taste them.  Begum sold Cocoa and Tonka beans to a trader 
in export business. Apparently Tonka beans are used in making scented 
candles and lotions, and some even use in food preparation for flavor. 

Working with Begum, Juggernaut learned how to use machete effortlessly
to cut weeds or rip cocoa pods.  She lived alone with her parrot as old 
as she was in birdie years.  Begum has a wealth of information on cocoa 
farming and Tonka Beans, whatever it is worth. Begum lived of the land; 
growing vegetables and minding few hens for eggs and meat.  Her needs 
for frugal living were simple; occasionally she shopped at Roy's Rum 
shop for staples and a bottle of rum. When it comes to cooking, she 
curried everything from chicken to bodie (long Indian pale green 
beans); for breakfast it was roti (Indian flat bread) and a piece of 
curried chicken, for lunch again roti and a piece of curried chicken 
and for the dinner white rice, greens, sometimes dahl (boiled split 
peas paste) and piece of curried chicken. 

“I wish you make stew chicken for a change,” suggested Juggernaut once. 

Sure she did; with tomatoes, scallion with soy sauce and a dash of
‘Angostura Bitters' that tasted and smelled like cardamom. The Island 
is known for producing the world famous ‘Angostura Aromatic Bitters' 
used to flavor drinks and some dishes. Begum believed in God Almighty 
but never mentioned religion by any name. She never said, she was tired 
of working. 

After hard day working in the field, Juggernaut sit with her on her
front wooden porch  making ole' talk, drinking rum and coke and smoking 
‘Broadway' cigarette, the only brand  Begum like for it is strong 

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