Last August I attended a friend’s wedding in Jamaica. Marcus and I arrived a week early and spent our days at Butterfly Villa, a well-appointed house within walking distance to the beach. The villa came with a cook and a housekeeper—Maevis and Carol. Both spoke with thick Jamaican accents and had good hearty laughs. Carol made us delicious meals every night—Escovich Fish, Run Down Lobster, Red Snapper, and, of course, Jerk Chicken.
I spent a lot of time following Carol around the kitchen trying to gather up her secrets. She thought I was more than a little nuts. It was about 100 degrees in the kitchen; the only escape was to sit in the bedroom with the AC turned up, or head for the ocean. "Go to the beach, Mary" Carol would say. I kept asking her how she made Jerk Chicken and all she would share is that she used a jar of Walkerswood Jerk Chicken spice. That's it?
One day, after a nice long drive on the Jamaican countryside, Marcus and I serendipitously came across the Walkerswood factory. I snapped up a number of Jerk Chicken spice packs to bring home. In my mind, I could easily recreate Carol's messy, mouth watering chicken.
I have been waiting a long time to make that dish. Recently, I bought a cabbage at the farmer’s market and chicken breasts at whole foods.
In my mind, it was easy enough: put the spice on the chicken and bake. Fry up the cabbage with a touch of butter. Serve. I assumed Carol used the entire jar because we bought quite a few jars that week. This is what the chicken looked with all of the spices.
I should have known something was up. Instead of stopping to think about it, or even read the back of the damn jar, I continued to think of Carol's chicken and how it would soon be on my plate. Wrong. Marcus took the first bite of the chicken and if we were a cartoon family, steam would have come out of his ears. The chicken was so spicy even washing it under water couldn't save it.
I had cabbage for dinner, lots of it. Marcus had cereal. My heart is still broken.