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Full Moon Rising: Full moons, moonlight nights and midnight picnics

The full moon on an island like Anguilla creates a sense of lunacy. The light is bright and all encompassing. Locals say you can see things on a “Moonlight Night” that you can’t see during the brightest day. It was one of the experiences things that made Christopher and me decide to make “the big change” and bring our cooking to Anguilla. On our first visit, we were at Bankie Bank’s Dune Preserve next door to CuisinArt having a gingery rum punch he calls “Duneshine”, and looked out at the sky full of moonlight. “This does it for me,” said Chris, and we were hooked. The full moon is that intoxicating.

Manhattan nights are pretty much the same as the days only with darker corners, cooler sidewalks and, of course, the glaring streetlights. You can get anything you want 24/7 as long as you know where to look for it. The neon and halogen obliterate the stars; you may not even know if there is a full moon hiding behind those skyscrapers. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York nightlife, but I have learned not to miss it too much. One needs to learn to distill the essence of the moonlight night Caribbean-style. It is true that Anguilla can be pretty quiet after the sun goes down, but on special nights she can also be the “island” that never sleeps.

Islanders see full moons as welcome visitors elipse... a special time to share with family and friends. It's a time when the kids can stay up late and wander the small hamlets and port villages with siblings and friends, fantasizing about what is lurking behind the cemetery walls, the abandoned house, or the old cedar tree. Often there are nighttime chores that can be done in the moonlight, like gathering dried wood from the bush to bring home for an outdoor cookout. These, too to, are perfect outings for pranks and mischief. Once the tasks are completed, or more likely the younger kids spooked, they run back to the yard for some crisp Johnnycakes or charcoal grilled ears of corn, or “Pot fish”, (a shared pot of fish stew), cooked outside over a simmering “firestone” caldron.

Families call these Moonlight Nights, and they are a celebrated connection to the past.
Games of “dog and da bone” and the sound of dominos slapping the tables animate the evening as sweetly as the playing of music on handcrafted instruments. The older folks entertain the young with jokes and stories of the old days and the old ways. No moon filled night would be complete without a ghost story or two.

Of course the full moon smiles down on lovers of all ages. It is the perfect time to grab the one you love and head to the beach for a Midnight picnic. Simple foods what are called for. Trunkfish tossed on the remnants of a bonfire until lightly charred cracked open and eaten with a sprinkling of seawater and local lime. Roasted breadfruit cooked on the same coals with a pot of stewed fish or even some whelks cooked in their shells until tender and eaten with melted butter and local hot sauce. Most of these items are also considered “island Viagra” so make sure you carry along a big beach towel in case you get lucky!

Moonlight nights and Midnight Picnics are special and should be cherished. So called progress brings its trappings. We become distracted by what is new and need to be plugged into something to be stimulated. Electric lights, boom boxes, TV , microwaves and fast cars whisk us into the future so fast we often forget the joys of sharing simple times with those right next to us.





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