Woman carrying watermelon with a bird on her shoulder
Painting by Chris Emmanuel
Eating watermelon back in the day...
by Michelle Rivana Buckley
Today the watermelon we purchase here in foreign are often very bright in color but has no flavor or sweetness. I’m often disappointed. I love watermelon and oranges my favorite time to eat them is in September. I could always remember walking home from school in the hot Belizean sun and getting the sweetest watermelon you could think of. Just waiting on our dinner table Everyone eying the biggest slice.
Purchasing the watermelon was a job assigned only to my father. He would make his purchase from a vendor he knew at the Belize Market. Daddy would bring home the fattest, longest, darkest green watermelon he could find. He would have the vendor slice the top into 2 inch triangle to test its juiciness. In the 60s and earlier on the merchant at the market would allow their customers to make their selection then it was put to the test with the knife. As always the sweetness and bright red crisp watermelon met the standard and often the riper it was it seems the more plentiful the black seeds were. You would take one bite and chomp along and spit out the seeds as you go along. It’s juices flowing down your hands and then you could not help yourself but to lick your hands clean. To add to it the sweetness May at times choke you but truly it made you dribble or as we know it your baba run aka mouth watering just thinking about how sweet, crisp and delicious such a treat was.
Yes to eat your watermelon you held it with both hands and chomped along like a beaver. My dad would cut the watermelon horizontally from end to end. He made sure everyone got a huge slice. Then we would go in the backyard or on the stairs and sit down after lunch and enjoy your slice of melon in that blazing September heat. All of us chomping in unison. Swallowing a few seeds here and there and eating all the way down to its rind. You would try to get every shade of red that was on your slice and if your sisters or brothers did not finish theirs best believe there was someone in line for it. If you drop yours there was no time to waste or tears you run to the faucet and rinsed it off and back to the joy of eating it. If you had siblings like mine if your treat drop they start telling you all types of silliness so you would lose your appetite and not want it again and then they get to enjoy it as a second slice. I know first hand because as a kid I was very scornful as we call it in Belize. It didn’t take much for me to lose my appetite and give in. My brother the twin was famous for this. He gully all of us and then would tease you “guzzuh” till your damn food, candy or your slice of watermelon fell out your hands like bad luck. Being cursed that word meant that he would not say it only once but continuously with a record playing tune. Then there I go storm off to go tell my mom that he “guzzuh” me.
My mother would have us rub the rind on our face to cool us down as she put it then rinsed it off. It was so much fun and so refreshing. At times she would tell my dad to slice the rind off and would stew it with brown sugar, all spice and a little lime juice to create the syrup like Supa. If she made it stewed we all knew that it would be our treat after tea (served between 4-6pm) in the evening. My mother was an excellent cook and stewed every fruit Belize had she even stewed the ripe red hammonds. It was delightfully sweet and very tasty. You could not help but ask for a second serving of the watermelon rind.
In today’s day you get your watermelon diced and in containers already prepackaged. It not as sweet and very rarely do you see children outside eating it. Folks have become creative now you can have your watermelon carved like a shark, basket, put on popsicle stick, or simply soaked in Tequila with a little Tahin (seasoning). To top it off it’s on the menu for vegans, yes the vegans consider it vegan food. My! My! Who would have thought that it would be a rage for some. My children loves watermelon and not only mine but a great big world out there. This year my daughter wants a watermelon cake and she has a fiesta theme in mind. I will give it a shot! If nothing else having a slice of watermelon was more precious than the candies or cookies of the olden days.
Every 10th our dessert and drink of choice was watermelon, milk cake and a bottle Bradley or Chevannes Lemonade. On this special day my mother would prepare that special 123 aka rice & beans, stewed chicken, potato salad and the extra touch of spam sandwich. In our household daddy made sure he would search for the biggest watermelon he could find for the occasion. Not once did he ever fail except in my book when he once brought home a yellow one. It tasted weird. My mom told him to never get another. I’m a watermelon baby without a doubt and like 4th of July for the Americans my family celebrated the 10th with watermelon it was a must have back then. .
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