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I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Miss Meada's Yard - Yard Culture - Part III - Smells

Miss Meada’s yard had a distinct smell, a medley of aromas. There was the smell of her cooking: pan fried fish and fungi (fungi is boiled corn meal with okra) red pea soup (kidney beans with Hubbard squash and dumplings) baking bread, salt fish and of course, Johnny cakes.

There were other smells too. There’s a tree called the painkiller. It has very large rubbery leaves. You can put the leaves on your skin under your clothes and it will act like a heating pad, soothing sore and aching muscles. Its fruit, however, is quite disgusting. It is the fruit which gives the tree its other name; devil apple.

The devil apple, when ripe, is a whitish-yellow-grey; pus colored. It has with black spots, like eyes. The spots are seeds that can be seen through its almost transparent skin. It’s altogether a very ugly fruit and when it’s ripe…when it falls to the ground and splats…well, to put it delicately, it stinks. I can’t relate the smell to anything because it has an odor all its own. The only thing the fruit was used for was as pig food. Nobody that I know of, at least nobody in their right mind, ever ate it.

The tree is native to Southeast Asia and has in the past few years become famous for its various medicinal qualities. It goes by its more “romantic” and Hawaiian name; Noni. You can see pictures and read about it here.

Personally I think I’d have to be tortured to even consider drinking Noni juice. Or maybe drinking Noni juice would BE the torture and I'd spill the beans rather than drink it!

Other smells in Miss Meada’s yard included peacock and chicken poop. Yes, she had peacocks both the traditional colorful kind and albinos. They had the run of Cruz Bay and could be seen strutting along the roads or perched in the trees. The only animal sound I can reproduce with any accuracy is the loud raucous call of the peacock which sort of sounds like a person screaming, “He-lp!”

She also had a large chicken coop and chickens running around her yard. Not only were they used for egg laying, but I'm sure they ended up in pots of her chicken stew. For a long time I wanted a chicken. I asked her if I could have one and in her soft brown voice she said, “If you can ketch it….” Of course I never was able to catch one for which I’m sure my mother was relieved.

There was also the smell of oleander flowers, the smell of the hard packed dirt of the yard itself, the smell of the privy, the smell of the charcoal pot, and the smell of the sea.

All of these smells and others too, mingled and mixed into a kind of soup, that was unique to her yard, and her yard alone.

If I close my eyes and concentrate I can still smell it.


  1. That's one alien looking fruit!

    I love her response to your request for a chicken. My kids always used to ask if they could pet the pigeons whenever we went out somewhere...I'd just tell them, "Sure."

  2. There was another smell in that mix up until early 1958 - the smell of the mangroves as they hadn't been removed and the "Creek" hadn't yet been opened up as a marina. The road had not been cut on that border of Miss Meada's property either, the one which would also border our lots down the way. I've often wondered how much property she may have lost when that road was cut as it seemed to me that her land went all the way to the Creek - across from the current Post Office.

    Can't help but smile regarding the story of you, the chick and Miss Meada. As I was there, I can still hear her soft, warm tone with the strong hint of a smile - not quite a laugh - in her voice as she told you the conditions!

    Can't stand the thought of eating a devil apple, but by using it and fresh coconut as major pig diet components, we've had some of the best roast pork IN THE WORLD! Even better than corn fed pork!

  3. OMG! My hubby and I ordred a bottle of Noni juice because we heard how healthy it was supposed to be. We were supposed to swish a couple of ounces in our mouth once a day and then swallow. It was, indeed, the nastiest most foul tasting thing on the plant!

    I do, however, get some health bars w/ noni in it, but it must be so small that you can't taste it. The bars are actually good.

    Interesting to hear about the noni fruit from someone who lived by one of its' trees. and LOL about no one in their right mind tasting it. It's a trend now. What does that say about people today? ;0) (that includes me BTW)

  4. I've heard about noni juice too and I wouldn't get within a mile of it, no matter what it did for me. It sounds a lot like durian to me, but at least the fruit of the durian TASTES good.

    What an interesting childhood you had, though -- it sounds magical and utterly charmed. I too remember the smell of oleanders -- we had them in California. My father used to work at the Los Angeles Arboretum, where there were loads of peacocks. To us, it always sounded like they were crying, "My eye! My eye!"

  5. Adrienne, it is alien looking isn't it? And Miss Meada was very wise.

    Oh Erva, I'd forgotten about the sometimes sulfur/rotten egg smell of the mangrove!

    Christy now I have proof that the noni tastes as foul and nasty as it looks and smells. Thanks for the confirmation!

    Mary, I promptly tried "my-EYE, my-EYE," and works quite well. So now I have a peacock that can speak Californian and St. Johnian. A multi-lingual bird. :O

  6. Great post, Bish. Isn't it wild how certain smells can take you back to another time or place? I'm like that with some tastes too.


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