Tainted potatoes

This is why I love Belize. Here is a message from the government regarding tainted produce, warning people not to buy these potatoes.

PRESS RELEASE – Food Safety Alert: Tainted Irish Potatoes   Belmopan. February 5, 2015. The Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture inform the public that they have received confirmed reports of tainted Irish Potatoes being sold in San Ignacio.

Investigations revealed that the potatoes are dyed a pink/fuchsia colour and are circulating on the market. Confiscation of this product has commenced and the public is advised not to purchase or consume these tainted potatoes.   Attached is a photograph that shows the difference between the two potatoes. The potato labelled number one is the tainted product, and number two is the locally produced red potato.

This isn’t a salmonella or e. coli outbreak, it probably amounts to harmless red dye on the outside of some potatoes. Here’s the picture: tainted potatoes   And again, the description: “The potato labelled number one is the tainted product, and number two is the locally produced red potato.” So… what the hell is number 3?


Random pictures to sum up my last few months

I have be terrible about updating this blog lately, which is probably because I’ve been so busy. It’s a bit of a Catch-22: when I’m bored I have nothing to post and when I’m active I don’t have the time. Suffice it to say, these last few months have been on the hectic side. Here are a few pictures from my phone which may or may not give a timeline.

May: I had a birthday


Tres leches!

Some friends came to visit


Mom and Jayme came down!


June: We went to a conference in South Africa


Then on safari afterwards (I got a camera for my birthday)


July: Simon spent his birthday here


We actually did more than hang out at a bar, but this is one of the only pictures I have.

A bar dog ate the bar

IMG_20140816_201811 August: We went to EnglandIMG_20140821_110907 IMG_20140821_103503 And then to Poland


Lovely Gdansk


My favorite window, across from the flat we rented


Gdansk panorama

IMG_20140826_041521IMG-20140826-WA0005 I learned that bread sometimes comes in a can

IMG_20140827_020658 We ate a LOT of pickled and/or smoked fishes


And dumplings

IMG_20140828_132229 And saw quite a few musicians playing Disney and Broadway tunes in arched walkways

IMG_20140827_134659I bought some shoes that had to be safety pinned to actually function as shoes- but are pretty cute


And then went to Trzclanka via Poznan for a wedding


And we ate more

IMG_20140830_141327And drank a LOT of vodka

IMG_20140830_141523 Then back through Poznan, then England, and Atlanta


I still haven’t figured out why there are so many statues of Neptune in Poland

And now I’m home! Until next week. (Don’t tell Mia)


Hungry bellies and wet asses

We’ve just finished our annual surveys at Turneffe and Lighthouse Atolls, which amounted to approximately 5 1/2 weeks of field work. We tent-camped for most of it (although my boss splurged on air mattresses, thank goodness), and I have to say it’s nice to be dry. Completely and utterly dry and unsalty, along with all of my clothes.


The first 3 week stint was a bit of a slog, with bizarre winds, low catches, and long transiting times (read: somewhat boring and difficult work conditions), and our crew just didn’t quite gel. However, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun or get a lot of good work done.

One of the groups of fishermen we work with come from a tiny village in the south of the country. These guys all grew up together (half of them are related) and have probably spent most of their lives together. When we’re in the field, they all bunk in the same room, and they are constantly, tirelessly, laughing and joking together. I can’t imagine what new jokes they have to tell each other, but they never seem to get old, and it makes the guys fun to be around. I have no idea how many times the “put salt water in their water bottle while they’re not looking” game was played out, but every fresh sputter and gag was treated with the same hilarity as the one before it.

The culture of Belize is very much like that of most of Latin America, and gender roles are fairly well defined. Despite having worked for a female boss for many years, there is still a bit of, let’s say, mothering expected by some (most) of the fishermen we work with. We can bait as many hooks as we like, lug more gear than all of the guys put together, and pee over the side of the boat: we’re still expected to feed the men. So one morning, well into our second week, I decided to jump on the boat as the guys were heading out to check and re-set a longline. I wasn’t scheduled to be on the boat that morning, but there was space and I thought I’d lend a hand with data collection. Given the location and the time of day we set out (7:00 am), I didn’t expect us to be back until well after lunchtime. I packed a snack.

So naturally as we anchored up around midday to wait out the soak time, 5 heads turned towards me to inquire about food. “Do you have any biscuits, Ivy?” I rustled around in my bag. “Sorry, just the one pack. Looks like we get 2 cookies each.” Evaristo gave me a good-natured smile. “Das ok, Ivy. We fishermen. We’re used to hungry bellies and wet asses.”

When the rain settled in a few minutes later, we were all miserably huddled against it, ill prepared for the out of season shower. Most of the crew retreated to the water to hunt conch, but a few of us toughed it out.


The next week, we managed to pack enough food for sandwiches, but none of the guys thought to bring a bowl for the salsa, which was their contribution. Men who need salsa casero are the mother of invention.


Several days later, on the last day of field work for that site, we were again anchored up, waiting for the longline to soak. Instead of rain, we were treated to a blistering mid-day sun. Again we were working through lunch, and yet another miscommunication (I thought we should save the gas and wait it out, they thought we were motoring in for lunch back at the station) led to more hungry bellies. Again, I sacrificed my meager cookies. Clearly, I hadn’t learned.


“When you put this picture on the internet, put a note under it that says, ‘MarAlliance is in desperate need of a boat canopy.'”

So I have to admit I was really surprised a few weeks later, on another atoll, in the same boat, when I found my actual offering of real food to be rejected. Oranges are a great boat food, especially after you’ve been in the sea (and were all were, every day, for hours). The oranges grown here are delicious but have a very tough skin, which makes them difficult to peel by hand. I’d been admiring for weeks the patience and skill the guys had when peeling oranges with any rusty knife available, and decided to try my hand at it. The trick is to only remove the thin outer peel, but leave the rind intact, then cut the orange in half. The tough rind makes it so that you can eat the meat by biting into the top without spilling juice all over yourself. A novice orange peeler, I did a passable job (I ate the first one myself as it was a bit hacked). My second attempt was nearly flawless, with only one tiny section that was cut too thinly, revealing the pulp. I proudly offered my orange around the boat to the tired, salty fishermen. One, two, three… four men side-eyed the orange, heads shaking. In response, Andonis reached into the bag and procured the very last orange, and set about peeling it himself. The captain finally took pity on me, but made a show of eating it out over the side of the boat so as not to get juiced. I guess that’ll teach me.

Feast or famine

You can get just about anything you want and/or need in San Pedro. Just not all the time. (Except cabbage. You can get cabbage at any time, pretty much anywhere). That whole local and seasonal eating trend that’s going on with foodies in the US? That’s just every Tuesday here. Except, of course, for the odd assortment of things that we expats can’t live without. Like half and half and cat food.

I’ve learned that, as everything is shipped onto the island, all of the stores stores that regularly stock Doritos, cottage cheese, and dry roasted peanuts get their shipments at the same time. This seems to mean that the shops that carry the specialty items I look forward to are all out of the specialty items I look forward to at the same time. I’ve also learned, by talking to the shop owners, that sometimes they order Fresh Step scoopable cat litter and they receive Fresh Step regular cat litter. And sometimes they have to place the order several times before it actually arrives.

All of this makes it, let’s say, interesting to keep stocked up on the things that I and my cat have grown accustomed to. That’s being fairly melodramatic, but I am on my last bag of Cat Chow with no guarantee that we won’t be switching to Whiskas next month. Fortunately my local guys have learned what I look for, and will even flag me down in the street to shout “We have your cat litter! Come by tomorrow!” They also have promised to keep half and half stocked at all times, so my precious store of Mini Moos that Mom sent may last a bit longer. I may have bought 4 containers of the stuff in the last 2 weeks.

On the feast note, mangoes are back in season! So far it’s just the little golden ones, but I shall be tracking the progress of the different varieties as the spring progresses.

And as we’re on food, I finally started using my oven. Would anyone like to take a guess as to where 350 degrees is?

And lastly, I got a photo of one of the competing pupusa ladies from takeout the other night. I actually prefer the other pupusa lady (more filling, less masa), but they were inexplicably closed on a Thursday so I had to settle for Backup Pupusa Lady. 

That’s it for now!