Sweet Dreams ’till Sunbeams Find You

When the sleet starts to fall and the wind begins to howl around every corner all I can think of is the trip I took, seemingly in another lifetime, to the Dominican Republic. It was about ten years ago (definitely another lifetime), before S., before Leith and before I stopped wearing bikinis in public. I spent most of the week lounging on a beach chaise with a drink in one hand and a book in the other, slathered from head to toe with 40 SPF and most of my skin covered by a beach umbrella. It was hot, the drinks were cold and the food was amazing.

In particular I remember two dishes: one breakfast and one dinner. My favourite breakfast that week (and remains one of my favourites to this day) was the cream of wheat at the buffet. It was a huge pot of unctuous porridge, chock-full of aromatic vanilla pods. I would eat bowls upon bowls of the stuff; it was comfort food and the perfect way to start my day. Now that it’s chilly outside I try to recreate that smell of warm milk, cooked wheat and vanilla some mornings and it makes me smile. It’s amazing.

The dinner I remember best was the one I ate the night before we left. We ate at the minuscule restaurant situated directly on the beach. Under the warm starry sky we ate and talked and looked out at the ocean…it was perfect. The food was, of course, incredible; the Caribbean flavours melding with the Spanish ones in the multitude of dishes we tried.

Following the plantain chips and spicy fruit salsa but prior to the lobster served in the shell, there was a grilled chicken dish that tickled my taste buds and satisfied my life-long craving for dishes that include all four S’s: sweet, salty, sour and spicy.

The chicken was grilled to perfection with the perfect sticky, salty, crackling skin and delicious meat. It was still on the bone and we were encouraged to pick it up with our fingers and enjoy the flavour experience completely. I picked up my piece and took a tentative bite (I had never had chicken cooked in fruit before) and smiled in response. It was all there: the sweet pineapple, the sour lime juice, the salty mustard seed and the spice…oh the spice. I have thought about that chicken every cold, frigid evening since 1997 and somehow managed to recreate it recently.

As the freezing rain pelted our windows we sat down to a delicious dinner and my brain escorted me back to the beach, the sun and the warm breezes. It was spectacular.