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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 4336

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


I cannot teach Cyrillia the clock;-I have tried until both of us had our patience strained to the breaking-point. Cyrillia still believes she will learn how to tell the time some day or other;-I am certain that she never will. "Missié," she says, "lézhè pa a?en pou moin: c'est minitt ka fouté moin yon travail!"-the hours do not give her any trouble; but the minutes are a frightful bore! And nevertheless, Cyrillia is punctual as the sun;-she always brings my coffee and a slice of corossol at five in the morning precisely. Her clock is the cabritt-bois. The great cricket stops singing, she says, at half-past four: the cessation of its chant awakens her.

-"Bonjou', Missié. Coument ou passé lanuitt?"-"Thanks, my daughter, I slept well."-"The weather is beautiful: if Missié would like to go to the beach, his bathing-towels are ready."-"Good! Cyrillia; I will go."... Such is our regular morning conversation.

Nobody breakfasts before eleven o'clock or thereabout; but after an early sea-bath, one is apt to feel a little hollow during the morning, unless one take some sort of refreshment. Cyrillia always prepares something for me on my return from the beach,-either a little pot of fresh cocoa-water, or a cocoyage, or a mabiyage, or a bavaroise.

The cocoyage I like the best of all. Cyrillia takes a green cocoa-nut, slices off one side of it so as to open a hole, then pours the opalescent water into a bowl, adds to it a fresh egg, a little Holland gin, and some grated nutmeg and plenty of sugar. Then she whips up the mixture into effervescence with her baton-lélé. The baton-lélé is an indispensaple article in every creole home: it is a thin stick which is cut from a young tree so as to leave at one end a whorl of branch-stumps sticking out at right angles like spokes;-by twirling the stem between the hands, the stumps whip up the drink in a moment.

The mabiyage is less agreeable, but is a popular morning drink among the poorer classes. It is made with a little white rum and a bottle of the bitter native root-beer called mabi. The taste of mabi I can only describe as that of molasses and water flavored with a little cinchona bark.

The bavaroise is fresh milk, sugar, and a little Holland gin or rum,-mixed with the baton-lélé until a fine thick foam is formed. After the cocoyage, I think it is the best drink one can take in the morning; but very little spirit must be used for any of these mixtures. It is not until just before the mid-day meal that one can venture to take a serious stimulant,-yon ti ponch,-rum and water, sweetened with plenty of sugar or sugar syrup.

The word sucre is rarely used in Martinique,-considering that sugar is still the chief product;-the word doux, "sweet," is commonly substituted for it. Doux has, however, a larger range of meaning: it may signify syrup, or any sort of sweets,-duplicated into doudoux, it means the corossole fruit as well as a sweetheart. ?a qui lè doudoux? is the cry of the corossole-seller. If a negro asks at a grocery store (graisserie) for sique instead of for doux, it is only because he does not want it to be supposed that he means syrup;-as a general rule, he will only use the word sique when referring to quality of sugar wanted, or to sugar in hogsheads. Doux enters into domestic consumption in quite remarkable ways. People put sugar into fresh milk, English porter, beer, and cheap wine;-they cook various vegetables with sugar, such as peas; they seem to be particularly fond of sugar-and-water and of d'leau-pain,-bread-and-water boiled, strained, mixed with sugar, and flavored with cinnamon. The stranger gets accustomed to all this sweetness without evil results. In a northern climate the consequence would probably be at least a bilious attack; but in the tropics, where salt fish and fruits are popularly preferred to meat, the prodigal use of sugar or sugar-syrups appears to be decidedly beneficial.

... After Cyrillia has prepared my cocoyage, and rinsed the bathing-towels in fresh-water, she is ready to go to market, and wants to know what I would like to eat for breakfast. "Anything creole, Cyrillia;-I want to know what people eat in this country." She always does her best to please me in this respect,-almost daily introduces me to some unfamiliar dishes, something odd in the way of fruit or fish.

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