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!

 

 

 

 

En Route to a Healing Weekend on the East Coast of Dominica

As I recovered from chikungunya and reflected on the loss of my little  cat, Tia, I felt that a weekend away from my home might be a boost to body, mind and soul.  It had been a long time (six years!) since I ventured over to the central east coast of Dominica and I could not wait a moment longer.  When Mark Steele, proprietor of Beau Rive, a lovely boutique hotel near Castle Bruce replied to my query about  room availability with an affirmative,  I unhesitatingly booked it right away. I had stayed there a few times in previous years, so I already knew that I would highly enjoy my short stay there.

I headed out on a showery Saturday morning with some trepidation.  I knew that I would meet more rain as I passed through the  mountainous interior of the island and I was

The Emerald Pool is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Emerald Pool is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

anxious about road and weather conditions.  But the little voice in my head urged me on. While it was little scary and almost as dark as night  at midday when I passed in the shadow of majestic  Morne Trois Pitons, I took my time and carefully maneuvered around occasional potholes.

There was hardly any traffic on the road and  45 minutes after my departure , I arrived at the Emerald Pool Eco-Site.  By then, it was pouring, but I felt in need of a little outdoor ‘refreshment’.  Besides, it was  an easy walk  on a well-maintained track to this famous waterfall and I  carried my umbrella.

The track to the Emerald Pool passes through verdant rainforest in Dominica's interior.

The track to the Emerald Pool passes through verdant rainforest in Dominica’s interior.

Although my joints reminded me that  I was not ready for any big hike, I strode carefully and sometimes gingerly through the dripping rainforest to check out this popular cascade. I kept my head down as I sheltered under my umbrella.  After a few minutes, I heard the distinctive roar of a powerful torrent of water.

The Emerald Pool is magical, even from a distance.

The Emerald Pool is magical, even from a distance.

The Emerald Pool is so-named for the green hues reflected in the pool.  Although it was a gray day, she looked as pretty as always!

The Emerald Pool is so-named for the green hues reflected in the pool. Although it was a gray day, she looked as pretty as always!

Within 10 minutes, I glimpsed the beauty of the small but enchanting Emerald Pool.  Although the rain persisted, I felt invigorated in the fresh, pure mountain air.  And there was not a soul in sight!  It was the perfect day to take in this little gem of the Nature Island.  During the cruise ship season, this eco-site is a frequented attraction.  Over the years. I have only been here once with a crowd – and numerous other times on my own, with my brother, a few friends or a handful of visitors.  In those days-gone-by, I would even take a dip in the refreshing waters – but not today!  I’ve long acclimatised to the tropical climate and as a result, Dominica’s mountainous interior is too cold for me, unless I am on the move!

As I approached a view-point close to the waterfall, I was thankful for a handrail and constructed steps.  Normally, I would not have given rough terrain a second thought, but living with the arthritic after-effects of chikungunya has given me greater respect for accessibility issues. I did have my hiking pole with me as usual, which gave me extra support with occasional balance challenges (vertigo) since the mosquito-borne virus became part of my life.

By just gazing at the lovely work of nature, all alone in the rainforest and listening to its persistent, but gentle roar, I felt just “that much” better than I had the day before.  As I hobbled towards the exit from the site, I took the time to  look in an easterly direction towards the

The  easterly view from the Emerald Pool trail is breathtaking - no matter what the weather!

The easterly view from the Emerald Pool trail is breathtaking – no matter what the weather!

Atlantic where I was heading.  It seemed to me, that despite the pouring rain in my location, it was clearing on the coast.

I arrived in the parking lot a few minutes later and could feel hunger pangs returning that had been absent during my illness.   I was ahead of check-in time at Beau Rive so I decided to revisit an old favorite haunt for lunch, which overlooks the Castle Bruce Bay.  In only 15 minutes, I was there –  at Islet View Restaurant where proprietor and chef  ‘Rudy’, a Dominican-Canadian was in the house.

I’ve always enjoyed his home-cooked meals in the past, and this time was no different.

The exterior of Islet View is rustic and homey and the meals inside are unforgettable!

The exterior of Islet View is rustic and homey and the`home-cooked meals inside are unforgettable!

After reacquainting and reminding him of our Canadian connection, Rudy went in to the kitchen to prepare a fish lunch that would sustain me until dinner later at Beau Rive. I enjoyed sipping on sweetsop juice – not commonly served in restaurants and I really appreciated this treat.

My sweetsop juice was served in this colourful container - a hibiscus blossom in a coconut shell!

My sweetsop juice was served in this colourful container – a hibiscus blossom in a coconut shell!

 

The islets in Castle Bruce Bay easily captivate one`s attention.

The islets in Castle Bruce Bay easily captivate one`s attention.

The lovely view of the islets, the quaint village of Castle Bruce and its bay and beach distracted me from what ailed me. I was

The serene scene at Castle Bruce looks very inviting!

The serene scene at Castle Bruce looks very inviting!

quite amazed at how easily my spirits soared with such inspiring natural beauty before me.  Before much time had passed,

My lunch at islet View Restaurant: Mahi-mahi (aka dolphin - but not the Flipper variety!), provsions (sweet potatoes, green bananas, plantains, rice, lentils, salad.  It would be hard to go hungry on the Nature Island!

My lunch at Islet View Restaurant near Castle Bruce: Mahi-mahi (aka dolphin – but not the Flipper variety!), provisions (sweet potatoes, green bananas, plantains, dasheen) rice, lentils,cooked cabbage, salad fixings. It would be hard to go hungry if Rudy`s cooking!

Rudy appeared with a gigantic plate of food that caused me to worry and wonder (for a moment): `How will I eat dinner later!`

I did pretty well by all accounts – but I had to leave some on my plate.  It was impossible to eat it all as I had not been able to consume any large meals during my illness.  I was encouraged by the return of my appetite!

One of Rudy`s homemade `medicinal rums`is named after the current Prime Minister of Dominica.  It contains an herb called `long leaf`, which supports a `long life`!

One of Rudy`s homemade `medicinal rums`is named after the current Prime Minister of Dominica. It contains a herb called `long leaf`, which supports a `long life`!

Dessert was declined this

I don`t know where I put it, but I managed to find room for fresh fruit: watermelon; mango; and sugar cane.

I don`t know where I put it, but I managed to find room for fresh fruit: watermelon; mango; and sugar cane.

time, but I did have a chance to ask Rudy about his extensive `bush rum`collection. This simply means that various local herbs, purported to have medicinal properties for various ailments are `steeped`in a potent cask rum so that the ingredients are infused in the alcohol.  I was quite amazed by his knowledge of the various remedies“ that could be imbibed for longevity, virility and vitality, just to name a few common health concerns.  I was his first `case`of chikungunya.  Alcohol was out of the question, but he did take me to the roadside where he pulled out some lemon grass and advised me to steep it in hot water and then drink it as a `tea`.

Rudy is very knowledgeable about local herbs and probably has a bush rum to cure whatever ails you!!

Rudy is very knowledgeable about local herbs and probably has a bush rum to cure whatever ails you!!

As typical Canadians, we discussed a range of topics, including the weather but NOT Rob Ford, Toronto`s infamous mayor (sorry! 😉 ).  When I glanced at my watch, I saw that it was already almost 3 p.m.. Time to check in at Beau Rive and take a nap before dinner!

I wished Rudy a safe visit up north and promised to return for another wholesome meal when we both were back on-island!

My healing weekend was off to a great start, and I`d only been on the east coast for a few hours.  There was much more goodness to come!

 

 

 

 

Three Cheers for Canadian Olympians in Sochi, Russia and Fantastic Creole Food in Dominica!

Gwendominica toasts Team Canada with a cup of coffee (of course) as she followed the Winter 2014 Olympics in Sochi from the Nature Isle.

Gwendominica toasted Team Canada with a cup of coffee (like a good Canadian) as she enthused about the 2014 Olympics in Sochi from the Nature Isle.

A Canadian called Gwendominica surprised herself when she discovered that  she had not forgotten her zest for hockey, as  she succumbed to Olympic fever on a  beautiful  hot sunny afternoon in Dominica.  She perched on the edge of her sofa, riveted to the TV screen as the Canadian women’s hockey team battled it out with good neighbours to the south for the gold medal in that winter sport.  It was an incredible game – fast, tight goal-tending, a little rough but well monitored by tough referees. The American friends were  leading by 2 -0  at the end of the second period.  As she chanted “Canadian girls have got what it takes!” over and over, the far away countrywoman sensed that the young compatriots received the message telepathically.  After a two goal come-back in the third period, the Canadian winning goal  in sudden-death overtime could only be described as “sweet.”  The delighted expatriate resisted yelling and screaming; she didn’t want to frighten the cat.  Besides, what Dominican could possibly understand all the commotion if it wasn’t  the West Indies team winning a cricket match!

To all the Canadian athletes and their coaches in Sochi, Russia,  I want you to know that I sent you ‘good vibes’  daily from the Nature Isle.   I thank you for your dedication, team spirit and grace in both success and defeat.  I have fingers and toes crossed that the men’s hockey final against the determined Swedes  on Sunday February 23rd  will have  the same outcome as the women’s last  game. You go, Team Canada!  You have already made me very proud.

UPDATE: SUNDAY FEBRUARY 23rd: O CANADA!  I am wearing a smile that I am sure can be seen from one end of Dominica to the other.  Congratulations to the Canadian Men`s Olympic Hockey Team who shut out Sweden 3 – 0 for the Gold Medal!  I will be wearing red and white and my Canadian Flag lapel pin for the next few days. Way to go, CANADA!!! : )

It should  be obvious to readers of Ti Domnik Tales that I am a proud ‘Dominican by adoption’ too. I was thrilled to be asked by the good folks at the highly popular  Backpack ME  international  travel web site if I would prepare a guest post about a favourite Dominican meal, to be included in their feature, ‘Around the World in 80 Dishes’.  I accepted, with immense pleasure.  I definitely love Dominican food, almost as much as a great Canadian hockey game!

You can read about my delectable Creole Lunch here.  It’s #67 on the list of 80. More details about that memorable feast can also be found on this Ti Domnik Tales post.

Home-made Fruit Tarts followed my Creole Luncl plate at Springfield.

Home-made Fruit Tarts followed my Creole Lunch plate at Springfield on Creole Day 2013.

Spinach-like Callaloo Soup was my Creole Lunch starter.

Spinach-like Callaloo Soup was my Creole Lunch starter.

My Creole Lunch at Springfield Plantation last October was featured on the Backpack ME website, along with 79 other meals from around the world.

My Creole Lunch at Springfield Plantation last October is featured on the Backpack ME website, along with 79 other sensational meals from around the world.

And yes, a  Canadian specialty is highlighted too.  It’s found here at # 23.  I highly recommend that you devour the descriptions of  all 80 food offerings from numerous countries on the planet.  With so many appealing and well-prepared selections to vicariously challenge our taste buds, I like to think of it as a food Olympics.  Enjoy!

Congratulations  to all the Olympians from around the world who participated at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.  Like a good meal, you made people feel satisfied and your impressive performances went down really well.

Capturing Dominica’s Creole Spirit: Enjoying Memorable Meals made with the Nature Island’s Finest Recipes

My classic Creole breakfast at Cartwheel Cafe comprised boiled egg, fresh baked bread, seasoned codfish (saltfish), cucumber salad and coffee, of course!

My classic Creole breakfast at Cartwheel Cafe  (448-5353)  on the Roseau Bayfront consisted of boiled egg, fresh-baked bread, seasoned codfish (salt fish), breadfruit, cucumber salad with avocado slices and coffee, of course!

When Creole Day rolls around every October in Dominica, I tend to fast the day before to  be able to feast in the true sense of the word!

Of course, I do spend the morning running around Roseau so that I can take plentiful pictures of people in their gorgeous Creole garb.  Perhaps you’ve looked at my earlier post about fashions in madras fabric as seen on the streets on October 25, 2013.  You can take a(nother) peek here.

In order to have enough energy for my wanderings through ‘town’, I fortified myself with a hearty Creole breakfast at Cartwheel Café (448-5353) on the Bayfront.  For me, it was the perfect balance of protein, starch and greens.  The coffee  just added a little extra ‘umph’ for my ‘runnings’.

By midday, I was satisfied with my photographic pursuits and I had certainly greeted everyone I knew (and some strangers too) with ‘Bonne journée Créole‘.  (It’s not quite Creole – my French gets in the way – but it sounds similar!)  The streets were becoming increasingly congested as  out-of-towners drove in for the well advertised Creole lunches that were taking place at various establishments – both large and small.  But I was headed in the opposite direction – guess where!!

Like last year, Springfield Guest House was offering a grand buffet Creole lunch – with numerous main course  choices à la Créole: Codfish Sancoche; Fish Coubouillion; Creole Stewed Chicken; and Curried Goat!  I knew what to expect and that was exactly what I wanted, as I have always enjoyed Chef Sandra’s culinary creations – and the natural ambience at this lovely and historic establishment gives me a feeling of complete contentment.

I appreciated this display of some local fruits at Springfield Guest House.  It was created so that cruise ship visitors could view some of the Nature Island's produce up close.

I appreciated this display of some local fruits at Springfield Guest House. It was created so that cruise ship visitors could view some of the Nature Island’s produce up close.

It was an easy 15 minute drive from Pottersville (on the north side of Roseau) and the weather cooperated (no rain!) on the way there.  As soon as

This beautiful bouquet of rainforest plants and flowers complemented the splendor of Springfield Guest House.

This beautiful bouquet of rainforest plants and flowers complemented the splendor of Springfield Guest House.

I got out of the car, I gulped great breaths of pure  fresh air.  As I was a bit early,I walked around the stately ‘ Great House’  and admired the views and the well presented dining areas – both inside and outside.  I started off the meal with a glass of sweet fresh coconut’ water’ (its juice).  At about that time, Nancy the Managing Director and Susanne, a German expatriate joined me and remarked that I seemed to have quickly revived from that natural beverage.  It was truly refreshing!

Then it was time for a starter.  I chose a cup of  vegetarian callaloo soup with a home-made bun on the side.

A cup of all-natural vegetarian callaloo soup and a home-made bun by Chef Sandra served as the starter to my substantial Creole meal.

A cup of all-natural vegetarian callaloo soup and a home-made bun by Chef Sandra served as the starter to my substantial Creole meal.

This new ‘national dish’ of Dominica is made from the green leaves of the dasheen plant. It was divine!

May main course Creole lunch included Tuna Couboullion; Codfish Sancoche; Pigeon Peas and Rice in Cocnut Cream; Breadfruit Croquettes; Avocado-Farine Balls; Madras Plantains; Pumpkin Accras; Roasted Breadfruit; cabbage and Tomato Salad.

My main course Creole Lunch at Springfield Guest House included Tuna Couboullion; Codfish Sancoche; Pigeon Peas and Rice in Coconut Cream; Breadfruit Croquettes; Avocado-Farine Balls; Madras Plantains; Pumpkin Accras; Roasted Breadfruit; Cabbage and Tomato Salad.

Then I was warmed up for the main course  – well I actually had two…I did tell you it was a day of feasting.  I guess I was making up for

The westerly view from the dining porch of Springfield Guest House is a Dominican favourite of mine.

The westerly view from the dining porch of Springfield Guest House is a Dominican favourite of mine.

missing Canadian Thanksgiving dinners a couple of weeks earlier in October!   The plate on the left reveals what I consumed a few minutes after the photo.  As we savoured every morsel, we reminisced about other times we had enjoyed in this wonderful setting.  I am also always rejuvenated by spending some time gazing down the Antrim Valley to the Caribbean Sea. That sensational view always

restores me to a tranquil frame of mind.

We did pause for a few moments before dessert, but the selections were so tempting that we could not wait for very long.  I had hoped to take a walk around the property after the meal, but the weather was turning and my stomach was almost overloaded.  Therefore, I succumbed to the whims of the day and reminded myself that the objective was to feast – and it was just so!

The home-made smooth and mouth-watering  guava ice-cream, which was served with wholesome  fruit ‘tarts’  completed this dining extravaganza.  I don’t know how I managed to find room for all that food – but I have no regrets.  Only a hurricane would have kept me away from my delectable Creole Lunch at Springfield that day!

There wasn't any room in my stomach, but that didn't stop me from sampling these fruit 'tarts': coconut; guava and apricot.

There wasn’t any room in my stomach, but that didn’t stop me from sampling these fruit ‘tarts’: coconut; guava and apricot.

Chef Sandra outdid herself when she prepared rich and filling guava ice cream.

Chef Sandra outdid herself when she prepared rich and filling guava ice cream.

If you would like information about weekday lunches at Springfield (by reservation only) contact: springfield.dominica@gmail.com  You can also find out more about this Research Center here.

Many thanks to Nancy and Sandra and the entire team for organizing and preparing this wonderful repast on Creole Day. I can’t wait for my next lunch  at Springfield Guest House!

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!