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Good For Da Wood

This story is from a first-hand conversation that I was part of with a group of expat and Jamaican construction workers in Grand Cayman.

One hot and sunny afternoon, which happens about 360 days a year in the Cayman Islands, we closed the construction site an hour or so early and gathered around for some pizza, chicken and a few beers. Everyone dove in and grabbed the food and drink before it was even set on the tailgate of the truck. One would think they believed it would have all disappeared if they allowed us another twenty seconds to put everything down. Being that we were at a construction site in the islands, the complaining commenced before the first beer was open or the first bite was taken. If memory serves me correct, we bought Heineken and Red Stripe and someone immediately asked for Caybrew and another asked for Corona and yet another inquired why we didn’t have Guinness Stout. Don’t be misled into thinking that if we had Heineken, Red Stripe, Caybrew, Corona and Guinness Stout the complaining would not have occurred. Someone would have asked for Presidente or grumbled about not having any rum. I suppose the point is that bitching and moaning is as much a part of construction parties as it is for construction in general.

Being that this was just a thrown together thing where I sent the foreman to grab some food and beer, the pizza came from Pizza Hut and if memory serves me correctly, the chicken came from Kentucky Fried Chicken. More to the point, we did not order food from a local place that would have made Caribbean style cuisine. Since there are countless combinations of pizza that could have been gotten, there’s no sense in going down the road of which pizza we “should have” ordered. But the chicken is where the story starts to come together. The guy who bought the food made the insane decision to order chicken tenders, and the local guys quickly and emphatically informed him that chicken is meant to be served with bones. Always with bones! In fact, as far as they were concerned, all meat should be served on the bone and no meat should ever be served without a bone. And that is where the entire discussion turned into a loud and animated debate about what food should be eaten at an event like this. And perhaps more importantly, why.

As I already mentioned, it was pointed out that all wings had bones, therefore they should be served with the bones still in them. Then someone started talking about goat water and goat stew. One of the expats foolishly commented that there was too much fat and grizzle when goats were prepared in the local manner.

“Grizzle be good for da wood, mon!” one of the Jamaicans explained. This immediately spun into a full-fledged and highly spirited debate about what foods were “good for da wood,” and which one was the best for da wood.

“Chicken feet stew. My grandmudda told me if I wanted to grow up to be a strong man (implying “good for da wood”), then I had to eat chicken feet.”

“You ever think that maybe she was just trying to get you to eat the chicken parts that she didn’t want to throw away?” one of the expats asked.

“Maybe so… still good for da wood,” he insisted.

“No, mon. Pigs feet make you stronger. Boiled with spices,” yet another chimed in. Ironically, no matter who chimed in and no matter what food was recommended, they all seemed to agree that the food they ate when they were boys, it was all good for da wood.

“Pig tail,” someone blurted out, with no further comments. Again, nods of consensus were given.

“My grandmudda said iguana makes you the strongest.”

“I ain’t eating no lizard,” was the immediate response from one of the guys. It was about the first good for the wood food that was a step too far for someone, albeit most of the guys nodded in agreement that iguana was in fact wood fortifying food.

“Lobster does the job,” still another added.

“I ain’t eatin no big bug, even from da sea. Don’t care how good for da wood it is,” the anti iguana guy grumbled while eating pizza. This of course spurred comments that somewhat brought the strength of his wood into question.

There was a lot of drinking and a lot of trash talking and a lot of foods that are apparently good for da wood down in the islands. And, according to some of the guys on the site, there are a lot of grandmothers who are taking a keen interest in which foods will make their boys the most virile. I suspect that the loving grandmothers were trying to scrape up enough food for everyone to get a meal and the “good for da wood” incentive was enough to convince most boys to eat whatever was laid in front of them. In the end, I suppose Grandma was right. Nobody is strong if they are going hungry.

“The women don’t call me Mango Man for nothin,” one of the guys said with a grin and the laughing and trash talking continued.

So, I guess the takeaway from this is that if you are on a tight budget and your kids don’t like what is being served for dinner, tell the boys that “it’s good for the wood.” Who knows. It might work… in more ways than one.

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