The Marvellous Tastes, Sights and Sounds of Creole Day 2014 around Roseau Dominica

This prety Chapeau Paille (straw hat) is symbolic of Dominic`s Creole culture.  It was displayed on the stone wall of Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront in Roseau.

This pretty Chapeau Paille (straw hat), adorned with madras fabric is symbolic of Dominica`s Creole culture. It was displayed on the thick interior stone wall of Cartwheel Cafe (448-5353) on the Bayfront in Roseau.

Every year, I look forward to the last Friday in October in Dominica.  That’s when Creole Day is celebrated, in recognition and honour of the

The Kai K Boutique adjoining the Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront in Roseau displayed a simple and elegant dress with a Creole accent!

The Kai K Boutique (440-6922) adjoining the Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront in Roseau displayed a casually elegant dress  with a Creole accent  by the door for all to admire!

Nature Island`s traditional culture, comprising food, language and fashion.  This year, I decided to focus on a Creole Breakfast and  a Creole Lunch – both near the seaside – but at two different locations.

I was a little early for Creole fashions on the street that morning and I did not stay in Roseau for too long because I would be savoring Creole Lunch closer to home.  But I did enjoy the glimpses of colour and design that I observed on others  around me who proudly dressed in Creole wear.

When I arrived at Cartwheel Cafe at around 8:30 a.m., I was one of the first diners on that special occasion.  It’s a familiar place for me: I know that staff and they know my meal preferences without even asking.  I always enjoy its congenial, comfortable and casual atmosphere and the historic architectural setting close to the Cruise Ship Pier in downtown Roseau.

Flavian is one of the friendly servers at Cartwheel Cafe who always welcomes me with a warm smile.

Flavian is one of the friendly servers at Cartwheel Cafe who always welcomes me with a warm smile.

As usual, I devoured the generous serving of codfish, seasoned with herbs, which was accompanied by breadfruit (a starchy ‘provision’ that grows on a tree of that same name), a boiled egg and garden fresh salad fixings.  A cup of coffee complemented the large meal perfectly.

My Creole Breakfast at Cartwheel Cafe included boiled egg, breadfruit, salad fixings (including avocado) and seasoned codfish.  Coffee complements the meal perfectly.

My Creole Breakfast at Cartwheel Cafe included boiled egg, breadfruit, salad fixings (including avocado) and seasoned cod (salt fish). Coffee complements the meal perfectly.

This traditional meal is still a favourite in the Caribbean.  Of course, the salt fish (cod) is imported from countries where it is plentiful and  it has to be ‘unsalted’ by soaking it  overnight in cold water.  Then it is shredded and stewed or fried with various seasonings, including onion and peppers.  For me, it was an acquired taste and now I must have it at least twice a week! This filling food combination gives one energy and following this hearty dish, there is no need for a mid-morning snack.  (But if tempted, or in need of  a take-away to enjoy later in the day, I highly recommend Cartwheel mini-quiches (meat and/or vegetarian) and a slice of their incredibly moist  homemade chocolate cake).  And the price is right too!  You don’t have to wait for Creole Day to eat at Cartwheel Cafe.  At this dining

Simone at Kai K Boutique has a flare for fashion.  She is adorned in a vibrant and sexy outfit for Creole Day.  Find her at this shop and she''ll help find something new that is just right for you in quality natural fabrics for a fabulous price!

Simone at Kai K Boutique has a flare for fashion. She is adorned in a vibrant and sexy outfit for Creole Day.Go say hello and she’ll help you  find something new in quality natural fabrics at a fabulous price!

On Creole Day, it's always possible to buy a hand-made creation at varoius shops or from vendors right on the street.

On Creole Day, it’s always possible to buy at the last-minute a hand-made creation  from vendors  on the sidewalk.

establishment, you will always get a taste of Dominican-style fare.  Try it and you’ll see what I mean!

The only other item on my Creole agenda this morning was a ‘sitting’ for my annual Christmas photograph to insert in greeting cards for my Canadian relatives.  As with the last couple of years, I walked over to Lasting Images Photo Studio on King’s Lane.  It was still early in the day, and I had not worked up too much of a sweat yet.  The pleasant photographer arranged me in a few ‘standing’ poses, took the shots and then showed me each one.  I was pleased with his results, which serve as  souvenirs of  my dress-up for Creole Day every year.  While my outfit was not new, I felt like a different person in my mix of madras coördinates that I had gathered over the years.  Someday, I will look back at my participation in this important local event and smile even more broadly than I  did in the photos!

Gwendominica dressed the part for Creole Day, October31, 2014.  She is wearing a plaid (madras) jip (jupe = skirt),  a white blouse (bluse), a slightly different patterned head piece and wrist-wrap, matching necklace, earrings

Gwendominica dressed the part for Creole Day, October 31, 2014. She is wearing a plaid (madras) jip (jupe = skirt), a white lace-fringed blouse (bluse),  a different patterned head piece and wrist-wrap, coordinating necklace, bracelet and earrings. The shoulder bag is made from madras material too! Photo credit: Lasting Images, Roseau Dominica

After this pleasant start to my Creole Friday, I drove back home to write for a while before my next gastronomic outing: a long-awaited dining experience at the Westport Tavern (276-9513), a quaint seaside restaurant and bar in Citronnier, a short drive south of Roseau.

Westport Tavern is conveniently located on the seaside by the main road just south of Roseau

Westport Tavern is conveniently located on the seaside by the main road just south of Roseau

Just after midday, I left the car at home, and was quickly picked up  by one of the buses that frequents my neighbourhood.  The main road from the south of the island to Roseau was getting very busy, as  school had finished for the day and everyone made their way to their chosen Creole lunch destination.  Fortunately, I didn’t have far to go, although my friend Nancy from Springfield did got stuck in the city traffic for a while.  Eventually, she made it through, and by that time, we were both more than ready for our festive meal!

Creole Lunch at Westport Tavern in Citronnier, just south of Roseau was a delicious repast for celebrating a  very special annual event.

Creole Lunch at Westport Tavern in Citronnier, just south of Roseau was ideal for celebrating a very special annual event. There were a number of traditional dishes from which to choose on the menu.

I was craving a Crab Back, and Nancy had kindly pre-ordered this popular Creole treat when she made the reservation. This

There's my crab back. Yum!  This delicacy was prepared by Chef Sandra from Springfield. She has a knack for doing up this seasonal dish.

There’s my stuffed crab back. Yum! This delicacy was prepared by Chef Sandra from Springfield for distribution at various venues. She has a  unique knack for doing up this particular seasonal dish.

delicacy is only available during the Independence season, as hunting of this crustacean is permitted for a few months each year.  I also ordered all the side dishes on the menu. How could I resist!?! Nancy enjoyed Lionfish Couboullion ( a type of traditional stew with herbs and other seasonings).  This particular fish has a bad reputation as it eats other types of marine life. There are concerted efforts to harvest it in an attempt to control it in Dominica, as it is very tasty to eat.  Westport Tavern often serves other dishes with Lionfish to great acclaim.  You can read more about this predator here.

The expansive bar at Westport Tavern offers all kind of tempting beverages.  I had unsweetened ginger beer (no alcohol).  Its strong taste perfectly complemented my Creole meal.

The expansive bar at Westport Tavern offers all kinds of tempting beverages. I had unsweetened ginger beer (no alcohol). Its strong taste perfectly complemented my Creole meal.

Chef Jessica knows how to dish up very delicious dinners.  You should go to Westport Tavern of an evening, and find out for yourself!

Chef Jessica knows how to dish up very delicious dinners. You should go to Westport Tavern of an evening, and find out for yourself!

The lovely covered dining room offers lovely seaside views and refreshing breezes. Boaters can anchor nearby too!

The covered dining room offers lovely seaside views and refreshing breezes. Boaters can anchor nearby too! There’s a wharf that leads directly to the dining room.

DJ David Sorhaindo played wonderful tunes in keeping with the Creole season, which complemented the cheery atmosphere at Westport Tavern.

DJ David Sorhaindo played plentiful  local and regional tunes in keeping with the Creole season, which complemented the cheery atmosphere at Westport Tavern.

As we gazed out on the serene Caribbean Sea, we savored every morsel of our delectable lunches. Fortunately, we were there a bit before  other eager diners filled the spacious restaurant.  I lingered over every bite of my Creole lunch, and especially enjoyed the Plantain Madras Pie.

My Creole Lunch at Westport Tavern: from upper right: mixed provisins;  stuffed crab back; plantain pie; salad; pumpkin rice. Yum!

My Creole Lunch at Westport Tavern: from upper right (clockwise): mixed provisions; stuffed crab back; plantain pie; avocado/farine ball; salad; pumpkin rice; red beans in coconut milk. What a feast!

Award-winning Chef Jessica knows how to put a wonderful meal together – and I was fortunate to be one of the beneficiaries!

It might not surprise you that I had no interest in supper that evening.  With two wonderful Creole meals ‘under my belt’, I would say that my 2014 celebration of this aspect of Dominica’s culture was complete!

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Creole Day in Dominica

Gwendominica relaxes after a delicious Creole-inspired Dominican meal in Roseau on Creole Day 2011. The painting in the background is by Dominican artist Ellingsworth Moses and is entitled ‘Mama’s Yard’. Photo taken by Nancy Osler.

Every year around the end of October, the Nature Island gears up for its Independence season, which culminates on November 3rd.  This year marks Dominica’s 34th  anniversary as an independent nation.  Proud Dominicans return in great numbers from abroad to take part in numerous organized events, as well as reuniting with family and friends.

One of my favourite activities is the celebration of Creole Day, which is held on the last Friday of October.  At this time, Dominicans honour their heritage, which is a mix of African and European traditions that have endured over the centuries. The Creole language is a blend of French words and West African grammar and syntax,  as well as a smattering of other tongues.  On this special day, it is spoken everywhere, although the older generations who live in the countryside still converse in this language with each other, as well as English.  Traditional foods are served in restaurants and people dress up in what is referred to as ‘national dress’,which is made from brightly patterned madras fabric.  The whole day is a real feast for my senses and I love to take part in it as best I can!

I spent the morning wandering around Roseau and  admiring the beautiful Creole costumes. It was a brilliant, hot, sunny day and there was most definitely a festive feel in the air.  Express des Iles ferries were arriving at the Bayfront, where they offloaded hundreds of excited French West Indians (who share a similar Creole heritage) from Guadeloupe and Martinique.  Their weekend visit was prompted by the opening of the 16th World Creole Music Festival, which would start later that evening.

Madam Wob 2012 Annette Bates is wearing a ‘wob dwiyet’ (dress), which is a symbol of Dominica’s cultural heritage.

Almost everyone on the streets of town was adorned in beautiful madras fabric in an array of traditional and contemporary designs.  While I normally do not ask strangers for a photo, I did request one from a lady who was wearing a style of dress that harkened back to an earlier era in Dominica.  She in fact had just won a pageant called ‘Madam Wob’ where she and several other ladies competed for this title by wearing  the lovely ‘Wob Dwiyet‘, which is a traditional dress of tremendous elegance and contrasting colour. It is acknowledged internationally as a symbol of Dominica’s heritage.  Although she was rushing to take her place in the Creole Day parade, she graciously consented to pose for me.

The ladies at Cartwheel Cafe sported madras head-wear on Creole Day.

Simone from Kai K Boutique (440-6922) on the Bay Front wears a beautiful custom-made contemporary madras dress with matching necklace.

I stopped for breakfast at one of my favourite Roseau haunts on the Bayfront, the Cartwheel Cafe (448-5353).  There I feasted on breadfruit, codfish and salad, along with a strong cup of coffee. That would hold me for a while.  The place was packed and I met up with some friends who were stepping out in Creole style that special day. I was very impressed with young Andrew, who dressed up in the traditional wear worn by men – simple but elegant with white shirt, black pants and a red sash.

Wendy and her son Andrew were heading to a special event at Andrew’s school, Orion Academy (440-3233) in honour of Creole Day.

Dora and Dernelle at Dr. Green’s dental office really capture the spirit of Creole Day with their unique designer outfits.

On my Roseau rounds, I persuaded Arun Madisetti of Images Dominica (www.imagesdominica.com) to take a picture of me on the General Post Office porch. Thanks Izzy!

I even passed by Dr. Green’s dental office, where I knew that some of staff would be wearing smashing outfits created by their own Dora. I was amazed by their unique styles.

Woody’s cool Creole style combines contemporary with traditional. He is wearing a ‘chapeau paille’ (straw hat) which is a symbol of Dominica’s heritage.

After a  few more sweeps around Roseau, I saw that the parade was slightly delayed.  It was extremely hot, so I decided to head out-of-town for my next adventure.  I was going up to Springfield Plantation, my first home in Dominica, where I would have Creole lunch with friends.  Somehow or other, I had not been back there for a couple of years!  As I headed back to the car, I caught sight of Woody, a local tour operator who takes his guests Off the Beaten Trail (275-1317). We only spoke for a moment,  as he had a jeep full of visitors and would no doubt take them on a real Dominican adventure!

It was actually a relief to drive away from Roseau, as it appeared that just about  everyone was going “to town” for Creole lunch.  I didn’t mind the relentlessly winding ascent into mountains on that perfect day in paradise. The road was in good condition and there were no rain clouds in sight. I was very excited about reacquainting with my old home, eating great food prepared by Dominican Chef Sandra, and relaxing over the meal with friends Nancy and Sarah.

Gwendominica, Nancy and Sarah enjoyed a lovely Creole Day afternoon having a special lunch at Springfield Plantation.

Nancy, who is Managing Director of the Archbold  Research Center based at Springfield, warmly welcomed me.  I almost squealed with glee to be surrounded by Springfield’s stately splendor once again.  Here, on the edge of the rainforest, gentle breezes tempered the harsh heat of the midday sun.  As I looked down the Antrim Valley to the Caribbean Sea, I recalled numerous previous occasions where I had lingered on the porch of this mid-18th century great house, which is now a dining room on the ground level.  Sweet memories came rushing back to me about those halcyon days in Dominica, but Nancy quickly disturbed my daydreams.  Sarah had arrived and it was time to eat!

My Creole lunch at Springfield was divine. I left a little room on the plate so I could go back for more!

The stately dining room at Springfield. It dates back to the mid 18th century.

There are gorgeous vistas both near and far at Springfield.

The grounds around Springfield are simply stunning.

From the buffet table, I filled my plate with all kinds of Dominican delicacies: mildly seasoned codfish; perfectly prepared steamed tuna; dasheen (a starchy  root vegetable) puffs; sweet fried plantains; fawine balls (avocado and cassava flour);  avocado pear and  tangy watercress salad.  I sipped a glass of freshly pressed carambola (star fruit) juice as we savored the distinctive tastes of everything on our plates.  On this divine day on the Nature Isle, we took our time, had a few ‘seconds’ to fill any remaining empty spaces and finished off the meal with fresh fruit salad, guava tart and coconut cake.

Before I knew it,  almost four hours had passed and it was time to go back down the mountain to beat Roseau’s Friday afternoon rush hour though the congested town.

It is so pleasurable to gaze down the densely forested Antrim Valley to the Caribbean Sea from Springfield’s covered dining porch.

As I drove away, I felt especially privileged to have had such a memorable  Creole lunch in this spectacular place.  Thanks to Nancy and the  staff  at Springfield for  a superbly delicious meal in such sensational surroundings.  I promise I’ll be back again soon!