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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2659

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


There are four dishes which are the holiday luxuries of the poor:-manicou, ver-palmiste, zandouille, and poule-épi-diri. [50]

The manitou is a brave little marsupial, which might be called the opossum of Martinique: it fights, although overmatched, with the serpent, and is a great enemy to the field-rat. In the market a manicou sells for two francs and a half at cheapest: it is generally salted before being cooked.

The great worm, or caterpillar, called ver-palmiste is found in the heads of cabbage-palms,-especially after the cabbage has been cut out, and the tree has begun to perish. It is the grub of a curious beetle, which has a proboscis of such form as suggested the creole appellation, léfant: the "elephant." These worms are sold in the Place du Fort at two sous each: they are spitted and roasted alive, and are said to taste like almonds. I have never tried to find out whether this be fact or fancy; and I am glad to say that few white creoles confess a liking for this barbarous food.

The zandouilles are delicious sausages made with pig-buff,-and only seen in the market on Sundays. They cost a franc and a half each; and there are several women who have an established reputation throughout \Martinique for their skill in making them. I have tasted some not less palatable than the famous London "por

k-pies." Those of Lamentin are reputed the best in the island.

But poule-épi-diri is certainly the most popular dish of all: it is the dearest, as well, and poor people can rarely afford it. In Louisiana an almost similar dish is called jimbalaya: chicken cooked with rice. The Martiniquais think it such a delicacy that an over-exacting person, or one difficult to satisfy, is reproved with the simple question:-"?a ou lè 'nco-poule, épi-diri?" (What more do you want, great heavens!-chicken-and-rice?) Naughty children are bribed into absolute goodness by the promise of poule-épi-diri:-

-"A?e! chè, bò doudoux!

Doudoux ba ou poule-épi-diri;

A?e! chè, bò doudoux!"...

(A?e, dear! kiss doudoux!-doudoux has rice-and-chicken for you!-a?e, dear! kiss doudoux!)

How far rice enters into the success of the dish above mentioned I cannot say; but rice ranks in favor generally above all cereals; it is at least six times more in demand than maize. Diri-doux, rice boiled with sugar, is sold in prodigious quantities daily,-especially at the markets, where little heaps of it, rolled in pieces of banana or cachibou leaves, are retailed at a cent each. Diri-aulaitt, a veritable rice-pudding, is also very popular; but it would weary the reader to mention one-tenth of the creole preparations into which rice enters.

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