Savouring Fine Flavours at the Francophone Food Fair in Dominica

As a long-time French  language student of the Alliance Française in Dominica, I  enjoy participating in the various cultural activities that are offered to the public by this active institution.

The Francophone Food Fair at the Alliance Francaise  formed part of the activities held during International Francophonie Month.

The Francophone Food Fair at the Alliance Francaise formed part of the activities held during International Francophonie Month.

During March, much of the world observes International Francophonie Month and Dominica is no exception.  Apart from special French  performances in dance, theatre, poetry and a Mademoiselle Francophonie pageant, one of the highlights for me was the opportunity to taste foods from several countries who are members of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. Of course, Canada as a nation and the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick  form part of this group of 75  states and governments  comprising 56 members and 19 observers.

I happily prepared some

Gwendominica baked goodies from well tested Canadian recipes.  She tempted customers with oatmeal almond cookies; coconut/chocolate brownies; dark fruit cake; and Aunt Vivian's carrot-banana bread.

Gwendominica baked goodies from well-tested Canadian recipes. She tempted customers with oatmeal-almond cookies; coconut/chocolate brownies; dark fruit cake; and Aunt Vivian’s carrot-banana bread.  Photo taken by my French conversation professor, Gildas.

desserts for the occasion, as a proud Canadian who is Québécoise by birth.  Although I was the only table out of seven that offered sweets, they seemed to go down well after about 100 customers had consumed delectable main courses from six other countries:  Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Dominica; Haiti; France; and Lebanon.  I can assure you that all the dishes were definitely more than delicious!  And the prices for the exquisite offerings were very reasonable too.

Proceeds from this event helped to off-set the costs of hosting  performers Catherine Denecy, a contemporary dancer from Guadeloupe and French actor Jacques Martial, who appeared in  a theatrical piece called  “Notebook of a Return to my Native Land” (Cahier d`un retour au pays natal). It was created by the late Martiniquais playwright Aimé Césaire.  I immensely enjoyed both shows and appreciated the opportunities to experience the high-calibre productions of these renowned  foreign artistes.

As for the culinary arts (and sciences), I already knew what one of my main courses would be before I entered the Food Fair. The instructor of my French conversation course, Gildas Lefèvre, had told the class a few days earlier about his chosen recipes for the event: Boeuf Bourguignon and Chicken Colombo.  I sampled the exotic chicken dish.  It was divine.  The French people seem to have a flair for creating and cooking flavourful foods  (la gastronomie).  I guess it was my lucky day!

Gwendominica student at the Alliance Francaise  posed during a quiet moment with her French conversation professor, Gildas. Photo taken by fellow classmate, Geis.

Gwendominica, student at the Alliance Francaise posed during a quiet moment with her French conversation professor, Gildas. Photo taken by fellow French conversation classmate, Gys.

Gildas represented France well with his exotic preparations of Boeuf Bourguignon with potatoes and Chicken Colombo with rice. 'Colombo' is a combination of spices with a curry-like flavour that orginates in Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Gildas represented France well with his exotic preparations of Boeuf Bourguignon with potatoes and Chicken Colombo with rice. ‘Colombo’ is a combination of spices with a curry-like flavour that originated in Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Carole Bogdanovscky, Director of the Alliance Francaise sold tickets and drinks to eager customers, such as my classmate, Geis.

Carole Bogdanovscky, Director of the Alliance Francaise sold food tickets and drinks to eager customers, such as my French conversation classmate, Gys.

Gildas serves dishes from France to his French conversation students husband and wife Geis and Georgie.

Gildas serves dishes from France to his French conversation students husband and wife Gys and Georgie.

Mr. Raffoul (right) served up his delectable Lebanese dishes to enthusiastic customers.

Mr. Raffoul (right) served up his delectable Lebanese dishes to enthusiastic customers.

The delegation representing Lebanon offered numerous dishes to many interested people.  Mr.  Raffoul, a superb chef, has a reputation around Roseau for the delectable dishes that he serves up at special

events and private parties.  It had been a several years since I savoured such  mouth-watering hummus and tasty taboulleh, which perfectly satisfied my vegetarian side.

Yann, propietor of Le Petit Paris Bakery and Monsieur Agpa, a professor at the Alliance Francaise offered hungry customers a taste of Cote d'Ivoire.

Yann (right), proprietor of the delectable Le Petit Paris Bakery and Monsieur Akpa, a professor at the Alliance Francaise offered hungry customers a taste of Cote d’Ivoire.

I was curious to try the chicken in a flavourful peanut sauce from a Côte d’Ivoire, French West Africa recipe, but unfortunately my pre-existing nut allergy prevented that.

Ronnie, representing Congo preapred teh savoury Sakasaka. Yann, proprietor of Le Petit Paris Bakery, assisted with preparations at the Cote d'Ivoire table.  It was pleasure for participants to sample these unfamiliar foreign flavours!

Ronnie (left), representing Congo prepared the savoury Sakasaka. Yann, proprietor of Le Petit Paris Bakery, assisted with preparations at the Cote d’Ivoire table. It was pleasure for participants to sample these unfamiliar foreign flavours!

About 100 people came to the Alliance Francaise to experience different tastes from seven different Francophone countries.

About 100 people came to the Alliance Francaise to experience different tastes from seven different Francophone countries over 3 hours on Sunday March 17, 2013.

However, from all accounts, it was definitely delicious!  Fortunately, I was able to indulge in another French-African dish from the Congo, called Sakasaka.  It was made from finely chopped  manioc (cassava) leaves and a delicately seasoned fish (tuna, I think).  I really liked it!

The dishes on the Haitian table were all labelled in Creole.  I didn't have to understand the words in order to enjoy the tastes!

The dishes on the Haitian table were all labelled in the  Creole language. I didn’t have to understand the words to enjoy the tastes!

I was busy at my Canadian table until almost the end of the event.  Finally, I had a

Lovely Anaila, who represented Haiti, welcomed everyone to the Food Fair and introduced a group of young Haitian-Dominican dancers.

Lovely Anaila, who represented Haiti, welcomed everyone to the Food Fair and introduced a group of young Haitian-Dominican dancers.

chance to go to the Haitian table, where I was acquainted with some of the servers, but not their foods.  There, the lovely and friendly ladies ladled out  complimentary samples of all their  vegetarian dishes for me.  My recyclable containers were filled to the top!

At 3 p.m., the Food Fair was ready to close down. I had a few pieces of Carrot-Banana Bread left-over, but I wished to share them before I departed. With the permission of Carole Bogdanovscky, Director of the Alliance Française, her husband Gildas Lefèvre took the plate of sweet-bread around the room.  It came back empty within minutes.

Carole, Director and professor at the Alliance Francaise and her husband Gildas, who teaches French conversation smile with satisfaction at the successful conclusion of the International Francophone Food Fair.

Carole Bogdanovscky, Director and professor at the Alliance Francaise and her husband Gildas Lefevre, who teaches a French conversation class smile with satisfaction at the successful conclusion of the International Francophone Food Fair.

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Some young Haitian dancers entertained the diners and servers at the Francophone Food Fair.

Both consumers and servers were satisfied with the results of this culinary international francophone event. The Alliance Française was delighted to have had the opportunity to present various Francophone cultures that exist in Dominica.

And  I was also happy to have a few delicious ready-to-serve exotic meals in my fridge for the next couple of days!

*With special thanks to Carole Bogdanovscky, Director of Alliance Française de la Dominique for reviewing this draft.  Her tremendous  efforts to promote the French language and culture  in Dominica are very much appreciated. I am also grateful as a student to benefit from her dedicated and patient  instruction in the classroom!

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