BEACON OF THE DAY: The ‘Coconut’ Woman, Yvonne Morgan-McKenzieOctober 8, 2023
Blending two of her passions together, Yvonne Morgan-McKenzie is surely starting to turn heads in literature and the culinary arts.
That does not come as a surprise for the author who, while growing up on one of the largest coconut farms at Aeolus Valley in St. Thomas, spent much of her time reading.
“There were always books around the house. All of us [children at home] would read our [text] books before we go back to school in September,” she recalled.
That ritual, combined with Morgan-McKenzie dad’s insistence that she and her siblings aspire to speak The Queen’s English, partly accounted for her effortless transition from mere reader to a prolific writer.
“I am always writing,” said the alumna of Aeolus Valley All Age School in St Thomas and Donald Quarrie High in Kingston. “I find writing to be easy because it flows… Write from your heart and be honest and then it will flow.”
Her pride and joy reached almost unimaginable highs in March 2023 when she realized a once elusive childhood dream, having her first book – COCONUT 100 WAYS – published.
“Growing up in St. Thomas, we had a coconut farm. Right now, we have one of the biggest farms in our community, and we looked after coconut in every way. We did coconut oil, coconut drops – every little thing with coconut,” Morgan-McKenzie reminisced.
She also recalled that, as a child, she maintained a presence in the kitchen while her late mother, Olga Morgan, brought her culinary skills to life, using coconut as a main ingredient, of course.
That home-based wealth of experience was bolstered by the fact that Morgan-McKenzie studied Food and Nutrition at Donald Quarrie High School.
Decades later, she made and sold coconut by-products from a stall along the road-way in her native St. Thomas.
“I just love to cook; I just love to cook,” she remarked emphatically.
Her campaign for the inclusion of coconut in cooking and baking has not been confined to Jamaica.
She brought it with her when she lived in Panama for two-and-a-half years, in the Cayman Islands for almost 20 years, and now in the United States.
Through COCONUT 100 WAYS, her advocacy has been reaching places she never travelled physically.
The publication has been sold in more than 100 countries, Morgan-McKenzie said. “It has done way past my expectations. So far, so good.”
One of many positive reviews has placed the cook-book among the Caribbean’s best, noting that its recipes are “simple” and its “ingredients easy to purchase”.
What wasn’t easy, Morgan-McKenzie told The Beacon, was her bid to find a publisher to take on the project.
“It was a long time before I got anything published,” she said, lauding Austin Maccauley Publisher for coming onboard.
Although her maiden publication is being touted as a culinary masterpiece, Morgan-McKenzie does not intend to limit herself to one genre.
A series of children’s books is in the offing, she disclosed. And she is even mulling romance.
“I am writing on happiness; I am not writing about anything sad… I have more than 30 manuscripts waiting,” said the nurse aide, who also dabbles in agriculture. “When I am not working [as a nurse aide], I sit down and I write.”
Morgan-McKenzie also told The Beacon that all her books are dedicated to her mother, who passed away in 2007. “She was extra-special,” the author asserted, noting the sacrifices made by her mom, who had 17 children.
She is also grateful for the contribution made by her late father, Reverend Grassett Morgan.
“Growing up was fun,” she concluded.
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