Along with memories of Daddy Dear cooking come recollections of his stories.
I’m sitting with my brothers and sisters on the verandah floor. My knees tucked under my chin and my hands clasping a mango that I have wounded with my teeth by tearing the skin surrounded its fleshy insides. Daddy Dear is resting on his favorite red and green two seater wooden bench, a hibiscus bush in bloom behind him, He’s also eating a mango and in between bites, he tells us the story of a King and his three daughters:
“Long, long time ago, when Adam was a boy, der was a King and him had tree gal pickney. Him want fe kno which one a dem love him di most.
So, him call the heldest one. “Daughter ow much yu love mi?” and di daughter hanswer “I love yu mor dan gold.”
Di King was not satisfi wid dat dey ansa.
So, him call him second daughter. “Daughter, ow much yu love mi?” The daughter say, “I love you mor dan silver.”
De King was not satisfi wid dat ansa.
Then the king called him youngest daughter.
“Daughter ow much yu love mi?”
The youngest daughter taught for a while and den said, “I love yu mor dan salt.”
The King was hangry “Wha yu mean ‘SALT” ! Fe yu sister dem love me more dan silver and gold and you a talk bout ‘Salt’?”
An him banished the youngest gal to her quarters.
Now, him wife de Queen ear all dis, and she go to the cook and tell dem fe stop put salt inna de food.
Now when time come and the King fe eat, him say “a wha dis?”
‘What’s de matter?’ De Queen ask.
“Dis food lacks salt” him say, an after tree day of saltless food di king get the message, cause now him know dis ya tird daughter truly love him. Wid out salt the world naw hab no taste.”
To prove his point, Daddy Dear sprinkles some salt on a green mango and gives us each a slice. The tangy sourness is tempered by the salt making the mango that was once unappealing now explode on our tongues with a unique sweetness that only salt gives.
I love to hear his stories. Images of dark nights and tales about duppies, and spirits that roamed about, and rolling calves whose eyes are blood red and change into a variety of animal spirits waiting among the trees for us. Stories chill and enchant me as I listen.
Now in my ninety-eight year, pictures of me repeating those same stories to my children and grandchildren creating contentment and satisfaction in me surface and evaporate. I’m left feeling a sense of loss.