By Angel Nuñez
There are so many things that USED TO be different in the village of San Pedro back in the 1950’s and 60’s and when we remember them we even become nostalgic. Oh how do we wish we could go back in time to re-live those wonderful experiences! This is how I recall the following.
CONCH EVERYWHERE I did mention that we become nostalgic when we remember these. To enjoy a good conch dish today costs a fortune. And not only that, we do not enjoy conch as often as we could or should. I think you will agree that the most popular thing with conch today is the famous ceviche.
Well listen to this! I will not lie when I tell you that as a child I used to be able to roll up my pants up to my knees and walk a few feet off the beach and collect enough conchs for mom to make a huge pot of conch chowder for the entire family.
“Angel, if you do not want to eat fried fish for lunch, go get some conch for lunch,” my mom would say and I excitedly volunteered to do so. Tired of eating fish every day, I USED TO waddle into the sea on the shallow grassy area right in front of my house on the beach and picked up as many conch as my arms could embrace. After collecting what I considered enough for a hungry family of five, I expertly got the conch out of the shells, cleaned them into a white fillet, and took them home for mom at 11 a.m. By lunch time mom has a huge pot of conch soup, or conch chowder, even fritters. One of the specialties of our family was the conch beaten and tenderized with a mallet and prepared into what mom called ‘conch steaks.” These steaks were prepared in similar manner as you would do a beef steak with plenty of onions. Trust me it was difficult to stop eating. My dad used to say that he stopped eating because he was tired and not because he was full.
Just to add a bit more on this conch story, I will tell you that when conch was obtained for commercial purposes, you could take your dory (canoe) and paddle your way to the reef and in a matter of half an hour you would have your dory filled to capacity and I would say that was some 150 or 200 conch. Really and truly we did not have to go to the reef, but it was the shallowest spots for diving. Thus the distance midway between the beach and the reef required dives of some ten to fifteen feet and that was considered a bit more arduous.
On another note I would like to say that conch ceviche was not the “in thing” in those days. Conch ceviche became a popular dish when the bars and restaurants used it a promotional gimmick to attract clients. And one more thing on conch! The shells were used as foundation in the ground floors of houses once concrete floors came into being more or less in the 1970’s. . Instead of using steel, the conch shells did the job. Is that strong? I guess so because everyone used them and there were no cracks.
SATURDAY BAKING DAY - I want to start by stating that I am talking about those days when there was no bakery in San Pedro. However every woman in San Pedro was expected to know how to bake. So if there was no bakery, what did the people eat for breakfast or for the evening tea? Well there were the delicious flour tortillas which every girl learned to knead and bake by the time she was fourteen. Then there were the Johnny or journey cakes. Another kind of flour product for the table was the fried jacks. These have always been a family favorite. More on flour and what moms did very frequently were the crispy waffles.
Now let’s go to our Saturday Baking Day. It was tradition that moms took Saturdays to knead a huge batch of flour and prepare sweet and salt bread. Let me see if I can remember some of the favorites. On the sweet bread list were caprichos, ojaldra, empanadas with cheese, empanadas with jam, bread covered with sugar, bread covered with coconut, bread covered with cinnamon. This batch of bread, usually 4 to 6 pounds, depending on the size of the family was baked on Saturdays and used for at least two to three days and then it was back to the flour tortillas.
It was also customary for mom to send a few sweet buns to grandmother, or to your godmother, or any other important friend in the family. If you had to borrow a waffle iron, it was common courtesy to send some sweet bread to the owner of the iron and in that way keep the friendship and the courtesies open and alive. Indeed I do feel nostalgic as I reminisce on things we USED TO DO YEARS AGO IN San Pedro.
25 Years Ago Books Can Be Purchased At:
-Ambergris Today Online Newspaper -Jose Luis Zapata Photography –Lala’s Store -Pampered Paws -San Pedro BTB Office -S.P. Town Library -Di Bush, A & R
Contact the Author at: [email protected]