Find a Penny: Pick It Up? Or???

Who knew it was a cultural thing? I'm just back in Port of Spain from some time in Manhattan which might be why I'm noticing things I hadn't before...or had and forgotten. Such as pennies on the ground. I'd never noticed so many pennies on the ground before.

Find a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck

You don't see many coins on the ground in Manhattan. If you do, they are usually in front of a street person who's stacking them, counting them, or otherwise keeping close watch on them while hoping they'll multiply.

One of "Harts Band" Carnival Costumes

One of "Harts Band" Carnival Costumes

It's pre-Carnival in Trinidad, which means:

Steel Pan Bands are practicing in every pan yard, roadsides and on the Savannah,  boisterously & loudly.

Everywhere, every night--parks, stadiums, parishes, neighborhoods--are fetes.

Folks who don't like parties, Soka music blaring from thumping speakers, being "on de road" playing Carnival, are packing up.

And gyms are crowded cause everyone's on a post holiday tone-up in preparation for squeezing into their carnival costumes.

If this were your Carnival Costume, wouldn't you be hitting the gym?

If this were your Carnival Costume, wouldn't you be hitting the gym?

Saturday night, Curtis and I attended the Victoria Garden Fete. Upon hearing "Fete" and "Victoria Garden" together, you might imagine this:

Trinidad's "Victoria Garden" Fete is like this by daylight.

That's our friend Jann in the center. (This is actually a Moka Fete. I couldn't access our Victoria Garden pics. But the scene is much the same.)

That's our friend Jann in the center. (This is actually a Moka Fete. I couldn't access our Victoria Garden pics. But the scene is much the same.)

After nightfall, once the band's warmed up, it's like this:

Back to the pennies: It was closing in on nightfall when I spotted a crumbled wad of money on the ground near one of the drinks tents. Not pennies, bills. TT dollars are colorful: pink, purple, blue. Unlike US greenbacks, they couldn't be camouflaged by the lawn. The fete, while crowded, was not that crowded... No way could I have been the only person to spot the wad. Yet no one else stooped to pick them up. Why?

Expecting I might be on Candid Camera, that the wad of bills must be attached to an invisible string everyone else knew about, that as soon as I reached for it the wad would be jerked away, but too frugal to ignore found money, I scooped it up. Then looked around, expecting someone to have seen me. Or to be looking around for their lost bankroll. To say something...

 I unfolded the bills. They looked real enough. Not play money or coupons. Then quickly, without counting it, I handed it to a gal working in the drinks tent. "Someone dropped this," I explained. 

She was clearly taken aback. Thinking she was thinking I was looney for giving away money, I shrugged it off and hurried off to catch up with Curtis and our friends.

Of course, hawk-eye Curtis, had seen the entire exchanged. So, I explained to him and our friends, how I'd found it. The woman we were with looked horrified.

"Oh, NO!" She said. "NEVER pick up money."

Trini superstition, it turns out, has it that lost money carries the bad luck "mojo" of whomever lost it. Thus, by picking money up off the ground, one could also pick up the bad mojo it carried.

Find a penny pick it up; forever after your day will suck.

Was it true? Do superstitions cross borders? Or do we carry them with us? Is it you believe your way and I believe mine? Or is it more "When in Rome-ish"?

Getting to the point: Does picking up a found penny--or dollars--bring good luck? Or were the rest of my days going to suck?

In hindsight, if I had it to do over again, I'm still not sure what I would have done. What about you?

What of the fate of the woman working in the drinks tent? By giving her the crumpled wad of cash had I, albeit unwittingly, cursed her with bad luck mojo, too?

My friend laughed. "She didn't pick it up. You did!"

Ahhh so that's how it works. Culture counts.

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Cooking Up Awareness

Have you noticed airport cultural diversity campaigns? Those corridors lined with posters show the same image with different definitions or different images with the same definition?

It makes the walk down gangways more interesting, definitely. And the message is delivered, clearly. But it’s nowhere near as effective as say, cooking a batch of barley.

It’s a happy little cook-a-thon afternoon. The music is playing, pots are bubbling and I’m dicing and slicing. Caught up in the joy of it all, I decided to cook up a batch of pearl barley. Those grains are just so darn good for you… The bag had been calling from the cupboard for a while.

While living in Indonesia, we always kept our grain products, pasta, flours, spices, grains, seeds, nuts… in the freezer to keep them from becoming bug food. We did the same when I was a kid in Huntington Beach—after big brother Joe and I whipped up and ate a batch of whole-wheat flour chocolate chip and weevil cookies.

In Trinidad, no one has warned us about bug issues with food storage. Sure it’s humid and hot and tropical—but it’s air-conditioned, a veritable fridge. So I didn’t think we had to freeze any of that stuff. Instead, I’ve been stuffing our freezer with important things: frozen margaritas, the corksicle, protein & chocolate bars!

Barley just takes so darn long to cook: 40 to 50 minutes. Caught up in cook-a-thon mania I’d decided to rescue the bag of pearl barley from the cupboard. Once I’d committed myself to putting in the time, I decided to do it right. Why mess around with cooking a few portions of barley when in the same amount of time I could cook a batch—all 50 some portions. (Where is that Food for 50 Cookbook anyway, John???)  Once it was cooled, I planned to season some up for eating today, then bag it, tag it, and pop the rest into the freezer to use in quick meals ahead. Rachael & Martha got nothing on me!

So, I dumped the whole box of pearl barley into a colander, gave it a good rinsing, clicked onto the Internet to find out the proper proportions of barley to water and cooking time, and got to it. Now if barley is good, wouldn’t barley with protein be better? That’s what I figured, too. So I added a couple more cups of water to the pot, set the timer for 20 minutes and measured out a cup of quinoa to add during the last half of the barley cooking time.

Fifty minutes later, I dipped out a spoonful for tasting. Blew on it. Chewed and called it done-and delish! I spooned it into a shallow 9x12 dish so it would cool faster and not cook more—no self-respecting cook wants over-cooked barley-quinoa blend—and went on about my way.

What the heck is quinoa—pronounced keen-wha! as in “how cool is this”—anyway? How come I had never heard of it until recently? It’s like those mysterious fish species that suddenly show up and fall off restaurant menus. Where have all the orange roughy gone?/Long time passing/How did all the tilapia and monk fish come?/Not long ago-oooooo/Oh will I ever learn?/O will I ev-ver learn… I’d never actually, for sure, definitively, held a quinoa, let alone cooked one before. Yes! of course, I’d eaten them (it?)… But always mixed in something else, usually a medley of grains, herbs and chopped veggies. So how was I to know what it (they?) would look like cooked?

Curtis moseyed into the kitchen around hungry time. While he was making his sandwich, he gave the dish of barley-quinoa, fiber & protein-enriched goodness a few stirs (and maybe a taste test or two) . . . it was after that that I took a good—then better—look.

Maybe when it (they?) cook, quinoa balls split apart and turn into little squiggles that look like half parenthesis or fingernail clippings? And maybe not . . .

Maybe quinoa stays in perfect tiny protein packed ball-shapes. And what, upon closer inspection, looked like baby pearl barley were (was?) quinoa. In that case . . .

What were those cute little half-parenthesis or fingernail clipping looking squiggles? They definitely look like worms. And didn’t one or two of them wiggle? (Which, if they did means they can withstand boiling then simmering for 50 minutes and survivalists ought to collect them for analysis.)

Had I, unknowingly, prepared a super, doubly-protein packed blend? One I might be able to sell to Atkins aficionados? Or, with a little effort, identify the optimal barley worm cultivating environment much the same way the Asmat of Papua have learned to cultivate sego palm worms. The WHO would surely award me some kind of metal for my efforts, wouldn’t they? (Not the musicians; the organization...although I wouldn’t mind meeting Roger-Baby.)

If this had been one of those power outage times when we operate by candlelight… or if I were in an unplug and tune in: let’s eat on the patio beneath the moon moods…or if we were in Papua or Pipette or some such exotic-sounding protein-deficient locale, that batch of super protein packed barley-worm-quinoa blend might well have been dressed, served and joyfully consumed.

But it wasn’t, I’m not, and we don’t—not that there’s anything wrong with it.

Need a Protein Boost?-Look Closer . . .