An old friend had come to visit and cook with me for a few days.
We were planning to make some porridge for an early breakfast, before heading to market, only we’d run out of milk – why did that always seem to happen first thing in the morning?
In a moment of inspiration, I thought about adding coconut milk for flavour and texture. (Inspiration, and also a lonely can forgotten at the back of the cupboard)
Who knows, it could work, it might not – but just in case, I added a teaspoon of freshly grated coconut. (Inspiration plus desperation?)
“Do you know, that in some islands they use coconuts while waiting for a bus?” I’m not entirely sure why I asked that question, almost rhetorical. Maybe I felt there was a need, in my ‘role’ as a travelling chef, to offer tales and adventures from around the world, as if to prove I was who I said I was.
There was a blank stare and raised eyebrows, as if to say ‘huh?’ “You mean they sit on coconuts while waiting for a bus? Or do they use them as payment for the bus ride?” she asked. “And anyway, where exactly are people doing this kind of coconut bus waiting?”
I added a little boiling water to the oats, let it soak for a couple of minutes, then added a can of coconut milk. So far so good
“It’s more about island life and not having to hang around waiting for a bus all morning. Think about it, you’re at home, you want to get into town. You’ve no idea when the bus is coming, only that it’s going to go along the road past your house later that morning. What’s the simplest and most sensible thing to do?”
“Well, the simplest and most sensible thing to do is look at the online timetable, or call the bus company to check when the bus will be at your stop.” she replied, quick as a flash. Of course it made perfect sense, I thought. I liked this girl’s thinking already.
“That makes perfect sense to me,” I replied, adding a blob of honey to the pan, (but this time only checking afterwards if she was OK with eating honey, being a vegetarian). “But imagine if you don’t have an internet connection, or don’t even have a telephone! What are you going to do then? The next most obvious thing!” A tiny piece of ginger into the pot, a quick stir and let it come to a gentle simmer. “What people do, and I’ve seen them doing it, is place a coconut by the bus stop to indicate that you’re waiting for the bus. One coconut, one person. That’s the code. The bus driver comes by, doesn’t see anyone around, but sees a coconut, so he stops, toots his horn, and you come out of your house and go into town to do your market shopping or whatever it is you need to do. Clever. don’t you think?
“Ingenious. Are you quite sure you’re not really making this up? Do we need some lime zest or any seeds in here?”
“We can sprinkle them on the plate at the end, I think. Maybe add some fruit – there’s some plums and kiwi if you want to chop them up”.
“I suppose it’s a great idea using the coconut” she said, thinking for a moment. “This works very well, by the way: coconut milk with lime, honey and ginger… Just one question, though, about all this coconut, bus stop, island thing: what happens when coconuts are out of season?”
“That’s easy!” I replied, “just use a watermelon!”
Nice and slowly, it really is the best way to make coconut porridge while waiting for a bus.