Hello ladies, especially my Caribbean sisters. Yes, you, the ones who understand that in our part of the world the spices, the flavor, and the aroma of our foods are as rich and plentiful as our sunshine. Our varied dishes from oil-downs to bacalao, when prepared right, will have anyone returning for seconds, even the skinny ones. However, nannies and caregivers, estates, luxurious apartments, and Hampton summer homes, with their expensively draped windows, are the wrong place to prepare bacalao, mondongo, curry goat, and fried fish. Leave your “exotic” cooking for the weekends if you are a live-in nanny or for the evenings if you live out. What you may consider a pleasant aroma might be repulsive to others.
Humorous corner: Janice had just settled in at the private residence of her new employers in South Hampton in Long Island, New York, for about two weeks as a live-in nanny. The home was spacious and beautiful, and no one would imagine that 3-year-old triplets lived there. The old Victorian home was like the ones she had seen on television with huge windows and expensive wall paintings everywhere. Her employers seemed very kind, and the children were adjusting well to her. The only problem was the type of food available: Cold cut sandwiches and bland soups were certainly not on Janice’s menu at home. So, during her visit home that weekend, she decided she would need to bring some “real” food back with her if she were to survive the third week. Monday afternoon, she quickly unwrapped some codfish she had brought from Brooklyn and hurried to prepare it while the children napped. Her employer worked from home and spent most of her time on the top floor in a small cozy office. As the codfish boiled, Janice tidied up some of the children’s toys in the playroom. Suddenly Janice heard a shriek. “Janice, Janice,” Mrs. Shakles screamed from across the room. Janice glanced up, wondering for a second how this loud sound could come from such a tiny person. But before she could answer, Mrs. Shakles was right in front of her inquiring about what she called the “pungent odor” in the house. “I’m just preparing my lunch,” Janice replied casually. Before she could say anything else, her employer was in the kitchen with her hand covering her nose staring with astonishment inside the pan. You would think that she had just seen a ghost, when all that was in the pot was codfish, a few green bananas, and some lentils, island food, as Janice called it.
“I have a business meeting in a few minutes,” Mrs. Shakles told Janice while she frantically sprayed the room with air freshener. Luckily, the lunch meeting was late, and the smell of codfish had time to dissipate. “I think you are a wonderful employee,” Mrs. Shakles told Janice, “but this type of food should be cooked while you are at home. I’m sure it tastes really good, but that smell is agonizing to say the least.”
Dear Mrs. Shakles, you can take a Caribbean girl out the Caribbean, but you can’t take her spices and the authenticity and uniqueness of her cuisine out of her.
Dear Nannies, what might look and smell good to you, someone else may have a different opinion about. Hold off on the codfish until you get back home.
Excerpt from ” A Guide to Developing a Successful Family and Nanny Relationship…yes it’s possible” by Alene Mathurin