When my very Canadian fella mentioned how much he loves coconut, I felt ethically obliged, as an Island Girl, to hook him up with the real thing. By the real thing I mean fresh coconut. Coconut that didn’t come out of a plastic wrapper. Coconut that doesn’t use the word “dessicated”.
Now before I get flack from the Island Girls (and guys) currently involved in actual island living, I confess I kinda cheated. I did not acquire my coconut in any of the traditional ways. Which is to say I did not:
a. Shinny up a tree for my coconut
b. Employ a neighbourhood boy to do the job for me
c. Barter with a joneser for a coconut acquired through questionable means
I went to Budget Food Store. And bought a $2.48 coconut. The only shinnying I did was up the apartment staircase, shaking my coconut all the way.
My forefathers and foremothers (including, apparently, my small and unassuming mother) shucked their coconuts the old-fashioned way: with a giant cutlass, a tool which every respectable Bahamian household (and some cars, as I learned on one awkward date) is equipped with. The cutlass is vital not only for getting into coconuts, but also, traditionally, for taming particularly stubborn weeds and grass, warding off foot-long centipedes, and discouraging would-be intruders from lingering.
My coconut came ready shucked, which means I didn’t have several layers of husk to remove. Just as well, since our apartment is shamefully without a cutlass. Even ready shucked, though, a coconut is a somewhat formidable treat.
First, I emptied the coconut of its water by poking one of the holes in the top with a pointy knife and a now-defiled chopstick, then shaking out the sweet, slightly salty liquid. The coconut water I hid away in the freezer for later use, probably with gin, a la Baha Men.
Just to clarify, when I down it, I won’t be pouring it down myself in a bikini. Disappointing, I know. By the way, 1:49 shows some nice coconut cutlass action, which hopefully clarifies why I took the cheater’s route.
That said, I did get to bring out the hammer in my coconut-cracking adventure. In the past, I’ve rested a coconut on an outside step and gone to town. Once again, though, apartment living does have its restrictions. The grumpy hobbits who live below us would be well within their rights to complain if I started hammering tropical fruits at 10:13 on a Friday night, and something tells me our linoleum might not hold up to that particular brand of food prep. Instead, I stuck my coconut in a plastic bag, which I held with one hand, while I swung the hammer at the coconut with the other. Vicious, tension-relieving, and utterly satisfying. Come to think of it, I might have been better at softball in school if they’d been pitching large, delicious nuts for us to crack.
Coconut cracked, the evening’s fun began to wane. Some coconuts slides obligingly out of the shell. This was not one of those coconuts, and I spent a good chunk of time using a butter knife to pry the coconut away from the shell. To say “it was reluctant” would be to tell but the half. I’ve since learned that some folks bake their coconut for a few minutes, then easily remove the flesh. I’ll be trying that next time. After a good half hour of trying to extricate coconut, I was feeling pretty inferior as a Caribbean woman. Eventually I got the coconut sufficiently free.
Exhausted and grumpy, I washed the coconut and shoved it into the fridge for use in a coconut tart the next day. I thought back to that Iron Chef ad with one of the contenders tearing a coconut open with his bare hands. And I felt inferior. Little did I know my coconut adventures were just beginning…
As vicious as my description of coconut access via cutlass and hammer might sound, I found even stranger tales of nut cracking during some nut-cracking research (which I should, in hindsight, have done before I started the process). Some of the stranger recommendations included a power drill, and what appears to be a serrated cleaver, which you use to chap the coconut open with your right hand while you (strangely) hold the coconut with your left. If you try that, let me know how it works out. Hopefully you won’t be hunt-and-pecking the computer keys with your nose.