When we arrived in Cameroon in 2010, we lived on a compound with 22 other housing units and we had a large coconut tree in our front yard.
We arrived on a Friday night and school started for the boys on Monday. I (DeAnna) ended up teaching that school year, but not until after our orientation time. That first week of school included a family picnic and I was supposed to bring a dessert to share. We had just arrived, I hadn’t been to a grocery store and was feeling a bit defeated when I heard a large thump come from our front yard. When I went to inspect the noise, there was a coconut that had fallen from our coconut tree. It was like manna falling, helping me with the dessert dilemma. One of the gardeners who care for the grounds of that compound asked if I wanted him to clean off the outer covering with his machete so I could use it. I said yes and watched him clean off the outer covering for the first time in my life until it looked like what I knew a coconut to look like. I ended up making coconut macaroons with sweetened condensed milk that I bought at a boutique within walking distance of our home at the time and the fresh coconut. To my surprise they were a hit and all the macaroons disappeared at the picnic.
In the States when I wanted to use coconut in a dish, I would buy it in a bag from a store that was shredded and sweetened. Living here I use the real thing and enjoy the natural sweetness and tenderness.