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Sunday Afternoon – Football, Quilts and Heavy Cake

We went to our friends Dane and Laurie’s house yesterday in Savannah to watch the playoff game between Seattle and Atlanta.

Dane is Caymanian and Laurie is from Seattle. Laurie of course was cheering for the Seahawks and Dane cheered on the Falcons just to add some rivalry. The game was a classic with so many incredible plays.

And beyond the football there were some colorful points of interest to the afternoon. Firstly, we watched on a 5 foot flat screen TV that Laurie won from Fosters Food Fair. Cayman is a fairly affluent place – no toasters or blenders in the drawings here.  Fosters runs several promotions through the year with prizes that are worth filing out the forms for. New automobiles or large amounts of cash ($25,000 and $40,000 large) are also typical first prizes in various charity drawings.

During commercial breaks Dane told stories from his childhood, stories that were fascinating on several levels. Forty years ago Cayman had a population of only 10,000. Most side roads were unpaved and though the tourism industry was a marked feature on the landscape, banking and finance had not yet captured the headlines. It was a different world from the vibrant international scene of today. Dane told of walking down Beach Bay Road, a gravel track at the time, with his buddies climbing the dune at the water’s edge, and looking down into small sound and counting turtles in the dozens. From the top of the dunes, the boys would spot the black dots in the water, the dark shells of the turtles floating at the surface. These Beach Bay treks often included turtle egg fights. This was somewhat different from a snowball fight as the eggs were heavy and leathery – it took quite a wallop to break the shell and splatter the enemy with egg, the ultimate victory. The boys would then have to take a swim because if they returned home smelling of turtle egg, the punishment was “swift and severe” according to Dane.

Dane also showed us a quilt his mother had made, a lovely coverlet with many wonderful old fabrics. The pierced top was lightly sewn to a sheet backing, with no batting in between. The result was a lightweight colorful comforter suitable to Cayman’s tropical climate. Dane also described a type of quilt very common in his youth that was called ‘anamacasa.’ After describing it carefully we determined that the Caymanian anamacasa quilt is today’s yo-yo quilt.  We have a hunch that ‘anamacasa’ is a corruption of ‘antimacassar,’  a type of lace dolly used on the head rest area (and sometimes are rests) of a couch or arm chair to protect against grease. A yo-yo quilt resembles the open lacy look of an antimacassar. Dane told us that women would beg fabric scraps from the sewing shop in George Town to make their quilts.

After chili and corn chips, Dane offered us ‘fruit cake’ made from his auntie’s family recipe.  The fruit cake was a very dark, heavy spice cake, with ground up cherries and pineapple.  Traditional sweet cakes in Cayman are called heavy cakes, typically made from a cassava or sweet potato.  Made without eggs, they are dense, heavy, chewy and very moist. Danie’s auntie’s recipe was lighter than the usual Cayman heavy cake and quite different from what  Americans know as fruit cake.  It was, by the way, delicious.

Dane and Laurie then sent us home with several pounds of locally grown tomatoes. Dane had helped a cousin pick 200 pounds from a friend’s garden.  The Savannah area has the richest soil on the island and is where most of the local produce is grown.  When Laurie had told us how to get to their house, she relied on the usual Caymanian practice of giving directions in reference to “the pink and white fence” in Savannah.  Street addresses are almost never used locally. (The green number signs on all buildings are a recent addition for the benefit of the fire department.) On the back side of George Town, for example, all directions reference the Jacques Scott liquor store, as in “it’s just down from Jacques Scott, towards Foster Food Fair.”

We’re looking forward to the Super Bowl and more stories about Dane’s childhood, and hopefully more favorite family receipes.

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