Monday, May 24, 2010

Another picture

I'm sitting at a table with four other women. We've ordered three sorbets - strawberry, mango and lime - to freshen our palettes after a lunch of spinach ravioli stuffed with feta cheese and sundried tomatoes, accompanied by Argentinian red wine. In the middle of the table, two scoops each of the three sorbets sit on long-stemmed martini-style bowls. Each of us holds a silver spoon. We delicately, or greedily as you'd have it, scoop out a bit of lime, now strawberry, now perhaps a bit of mango.

The walls behind us are bright yellow with dark wood trimming and our table is at the edge of a large courtyard in an old plantation-style house. Each of our seats is decorated by a round brightly-coloured straw placemat. The walls are speckled with bits of local Haitian art, and in fact the back of the house is a little art gallery.

Our table is actually right next to the kitchen - we're separated from them by nothing but a grated window. This might have detracted from the sophistication of the afternoon, but instead it adds to the overall effect. The kitchen staff is producing gorgeous food with precise discipline. They are clean, efficient, and passionate about food.

As we sip our sorbet, I peek through the grated window and see the profile of a young Haitian woman in a green whispy blouse and a stout white chef's cap. With perfect posture she stands up against the counter and peels garlic. The contours of her face are twisted up in perfect concentration, yet at the same time relaxed with the confidence she has in her task.

It was hard to believe we were half a block up the street from one of Port-au-Prince's hundreds of tent cities. It was hard to remember the desolation we had driven past to arrive here. It was precious to have an afternoon like this.

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