Carnival is on in Trinidad, and wonderful memories came running back to me of my first time (not like what Destra sang about this year :)). The year was 1990 and it was a couple months after I had started my first proper job. The desire to go to Carnival though, might not have arisen had I not done the university course I did.
Back in the day, Soca was not very popular in Jamaica. Sure….the old folks liked Sparrow and others of that era. But young people, unless you had been exposed to Trinis, did not gravitate to that genre of music. I spent the first two years in Jamaica and I can’t recall meeting or bonding with any Trinidadians there. I had been to Trinidad first in 1979 and maybe I slept the time away but I don’t remember much about the food, except a green banana and saltfish combo. When we hit Nassau for the second half of university, there began my education about all things Trini.
There was the music and learning to “wine” properly. “Wine you waist like a figure 8” is the tip that I still remember. Then came the food. One of the girls loved to cook and blessed us with Trini food often. She had even carried her tawa [*stops to check spelling…..good……it’s correct*] so we were treated to roti skins ever so often. She did plain roti skins, the torn ones (buss up shut) and the ones stuffed with the split peas inside (dhal puri). The latter still remains my favourite.
Fast forward to me being a full fledged working woman, earning my own [pittance of a] salary when my Trini friend says “come fuh Carnival nah?” True to how I had only been employed for seven months and therefore not due vacation yet, I had to do some serious negotiations to get the time off [thanks Mrs G!]. And it was off to the land of calypso, soca and roti.
Everyday that my friend asked “what yuh want for lunch today Yammie”, my reply was always the same. Roti! In dem days, ah used to eat everything [now only fish/seafood] so whatever was on offer at the roti shop in St James, I was into it. Dinner time came and the question about my desired meal was met with the same response. A few days after, my friend asked me if I wasn’t going to eat anything else. Nope. I am sure I put on a few pounds with all that flour.
I was fortunate to be able to go back the following year and my appetite for roti had increased. So it was the same routine. Roti was the number 1, 2 and 3 choice. On subsequent visits to Trinidad, even outside of Carnival time, I would find myself at the Hot Shoppe Roti Shop in St James to make my purchase. One time I also had from Patraj Roti Shop in Tunapuna. The last time I went to Trinidad was for cricket. I left the Oval some time in the evening and hunted down the first roti shop I could find, only to be disappointed. Apparently it was too late for roti…..if you were a Trini. Me? Anytime is roti time.
How do I love my roti? Let me count the ways. Just show me the roti. In my last job, we had roti on the menu everyday. It was very hard to resist having the roti skin every day that there was a filling I could eat. But I was very good, once I didn’t go into the Kitchen and spy the hot roti skins, especially if they had been just delivered by the supplier.
So when I think of Carnival, I think of roti. It’s the end of Carnival Monday today, so in commemoration of my first time, I went and bought 5 roti dhal puri roti skins and just finished having it with some curried chickpeas and non-curry Mexican bean stew. Finger licking good, except that I almost never use my hands to eat roti. Where possible, I get it unwrapped and yes, I use my knife and fork and eat it.