Interviewee: Carmella Samuel
Interviewer: Jeffrey Boyce
Date: June 27, 2016
Description: Carmella Samuel was a school cook in the Virgin Islands.
Jeffrey Boyce: I’m Jeffrey Boyce and it is June 27, 2016. I’m here on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands with Carmella Samuel.
Carmella Samuel: Yep.
JB: Welcome Carmella and thanks for taking the time to talk with me.
CS: You’re welcome.
JB: Could we begin by you telling me a little bit about yourself, where you were born and where you grew up?
CS: I was born in Nevis.
JB: Nevis? You’re the first person I’ve talked to from Nevis.
CS: Truly? I was born in Nevis and I come to the Virgin Island. I got married in the Virgin Island. I have seven children.
JB: Boys or girls?
CS: Five girls – four girls and the rest is boys – three boys.
JB: That’s a nice sized family.
CS: Real, real nice. We are all together. And then I start to work at the school lunch, 1990, September.
JB: September of 1990? So you’ve been doing this a while.
CS: Yes. I work here at least twenty-seven years. I was working at EBO and at work at Lockhart School. But so when they had the hurricane, you know, and I was at Lockhart, OK, they told me to come here. So I came here to work and this is where I stayed until I retire.
JB: When did you retire?
CS: I retired three years ago now.
JB: What was your job title?
CS: My job title was Cook 1.
JB: Cook 1, OK. What was a typical day like for you? What did you do?
CS: When I cooked?
CS: I’m going to say I was behind, because she’s the manager. We were Cook 2. I was from Cook 1 to Cook 2, and the job that I do, I really did love the job. It was really good, because the manager encouraged me and she was interested in work that I done, because she could leave me and go anyplace and the work would finish.
JB: You were dependable.
CS: [Nods in the affirmative.] And when I came in in the morning she only have to say, “Look,” because she put up signs what to cook. That’s it, and I’m gone with the work, and the children, they will come in at least ten for the lunch. Lunch will be ready. Breakfast will be ready. Everything will be ready. She did not have no problem with me. So, she was regret when I’m retire, because she always saying that she could depend upon me.
JB: What was your favorite thing to prepare?
CS: Well, in the morning sometime we used to prepare eggs and toast. Sometime we do the cereal. Sometimes we do the bread and like a little sandwich.
JB: Did you ever bake bread when you were here?
CS: Yea, the manager do the bread and give them bread. But when it come around to lunch sometime we do meatball, spaghetti, and sometimes we do hamburgers and bread, and lettuce, tomato, and the fruit. And sometimes we do like mashed potato, and chicken, like we sometimes barbeque chicken. Everything. We mix up the food, but they does eat the food sometime. Not sometime, all the time when I here. I don’t know for now. I don’t know for now.
JB: What were the kids’ favorites?
CS: OH, the favorite, they love chicken.
JB: Barbequed chicken?
CS: Barbeque chicken. It’s true chicken. They love chicken and rice. They love chicken and mash. Sometime they love meatball. They love hamburger, like on Friday you give them a light breakfast like hamburger, they’re vegetarian, and the fruit. That’s just Friday. From Monday right down to it, heavy food.
JB: Did you say true chicken?
JB: What is that?
CS: You bake the chicken, put them in the oven, and after you bake the chicken you take them out. You make your gravy, you have all your seasoning and everything done. And you make that gravy, and when the chicken come out you put the gravy over the chicken, you put it back in the oven for five or ten minutes. Barbeque – when they barbeque the chicken they put it in the oven too. They took them out and you have the barbeque like the barbeque sauce, a little sugar, tomato ketchup, and either put onion, either put pepper, red and green pepper, put in the barbeque, and a little, little bit of cayenne pepper. That’ll get a good flavor. And when you do that barbeque and you throw it over it, you rest it back in the oven five minutes and it come out – mmm – you lick your finger. And sometimes let us do like casserole – you ever hear about this casserole?
CS: Meat, ground meat, you boil it up, take out that water and the fat, you drain out that fat, and then you put in your seasoning – onion, garlic, red and green pepper, tomato paste, and you let it simmer down. Then you boil your macaroni, half cooked, and then after half cooked you strain that water out. And after you strain the water out you take that meat and you wrap it up in a tight [makes a twisting motion], and then after you finish you put a little garlic there, cheese, some cheese inside the meat, and then when you come out you put a little cheese on top, make it beautiful. They kill you for that. That is where I were here, but I don’t know how they do it now.
JB: What changes did you see in the program over the years you were working?
CS: Not changes. Everything is coming real good. And that is when Ms. Isaak was there and everything is coming good. It was good, the time I was here. I didn’t regret and I did not sorry. But I tell you the truth. I used to say, “I retire. Now I retire.” I was sorry, because you know, keep going, make your body good.
JB: Do you have any special stories about special children you served or people you worked with over the years?
CS: Oh, the children, you have children, and you know, it is not all of them going be good. Some going be a problem. Some going give you trouble. But you only have to nourish them, love them, and tell them eat. Up ‘til now, I tell you, when I walk on the street and I see those children, sometime I forget them, and they say, “Did you forget to feed me?” I say, “Oh, yea.” Up to last week one met me up the supermarket and she come right up in me face. I say, “What happen to you? I don’t see you.” She say, “Yes, I went away.” I say, “How you doing?” Then she ask me if I still over there. I tell her, “No.” But I say, “You’re looking good.” And she say, “Yea. Thank you.” [They] still love me. It’s how you treat them and how you make them happy. But some of them, the people that work with, they drive you up, you know, they drive you up, because when you tell them don’t take that, and do it in the way they suppose to do, they want to do it the other way.
JB: What advice would you give someone who was thinking about trying to get a job in child nutrition today?
CS: Well, I would tell them, “Go in.” And it’s up to them. Do what you could do, and do the best. Feed the children. Speak to them nice, love them, and make sure they eat.
JB: Anything else you’d like to add?
CS: Some of the workers, they will give you a hard time, but don’t take them on, don’t take them on. Be nice to them because they always say, “Be nice to your people. Be nice to your folk.” Just tell them love them. Be patient. Be patient. That’s a art. Be patient. “Good morning, Good afternoon” for example. You come in in the lunchroom, “GOOD MORNING.” And we always say, “How you are today?” That’s the key. “Good Morning, Thank you.” When you get the lunch, “Thank you very much.”
JB: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.
CS: I hope I do good.
JB: It was wonderful.