I ate a big ol’ bulla with pear (I also add cinnamon, I don’t know if I am breaking the bulla rules) to be in the right mindset to write this blog post! I picked up my bulla while going for a run, so as if I don’t stand out enough as the only “whitey” in my community running down the road, in one hand I clutched a bulla bigger than my head, that cost a mere J$50 (less than 42 cents in US currency). One woman told me, as I ran up the last hill to my house, “Yuh don’t needa run!” and I said, “Me hava run fi me bulla!”
The above comic shows the natural hospitality of Jamaicans---when things are fruiting in your yard, you share with your neighbors and friends. One of my neighbors sells at the market and he is always coming around with a leftover jelly or a hand of bananas. In return, I share the baked goods that I make, which are usually creations that your average Jamaican has never enjoyed…such as biscotti or rye bread. I am never sure if they are well received or not---no one would ever tell me if they didn’t like them!
In Jamaica, the avocado, Persea Americana, is called a pear. The word, “avocado” is derived from an Aztec word, “ahuacatl”, which means “testicle tree”. Yep, the Aztecs thought the pear tree looked like a tree of big ol’ ballsacks, plus the fruit has aphrodisiac qualities. This pyriform, green-skinned fruit is full of monounsaturated fat, protein, potassium, magnesium, and other essential nutrients. Many have enjoyed avocadoes in the popular Mexican dish, guacamole, but in Jamaica, this isn’t the way to enjoy a pear. If you want to enjoy a pear Jamaican, style, you have to go to your closest corner shop and grab a bulla.
A bulla is a flat round cake made with molasses, flour, and ginger. They are cheap and filling, and started being made in Jamaica around the late nineteenth century (initially called “buller”). It tastes great with cheese or butter, but it is best with a pear.
In addition to eating pear, thankfully there are numerous home uses so none of them go to waste! In 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life, author David Grotto states many of the uses, such as using the flesh of the fruit to condition hair or to use as a shaving cream. Apparently, even the skin has been used as an antibiotic for parasites and dysentery. A powder made from seeds can be used for dandruff, and chewing on seeds can aid toothache pain. In addition, Grotto shares how other cultures enjoy the pear; In Brazil, avocados are added to ice cream, and Filipinos puree avocados and make beverages with sugar and milk. My tree still has a lot of fruit, so I guess I'll be experimenting with some of these recipes!
One thing is for sure, there's no way you'd ever go hungry in Jamaica as a Peace Corps Volunteer!