A Canadian Thanksgiving on Dominica, the beautiful and bountiful Nature Island

Anthurium lilies perfectly complement my celebration of Thanksgiving in Dominica.

Anthurium lilies perfectly complement my celebration of Thanksgiving in Dominica.

It`s a special weekend in my `home and native land.“ And although I am far from the `far north,`I am taking time to celebrate Thanksgiving,

Despite being a dark day, a beautiful rainbow touches Roseau, as seen from my porch.

A beautiful rainbow touches Roseau, as seen from my porch. I give thanks for the exceptional natural beauty found on Dominica.

Canadian style. For those readers who were unaware, this annual celebration of the harvest takes place on the second weekend of October, and is not to be confused with the larger festivities of the same name that our American friends celebrate on the last Thursday of November.  In Canada, the primary purpose of this holiday is as it says, to `give thanks“, in both sacred and secular ways. Thanksgiving was proclaimed an official holiday  in 1957, but has actually been celebrated  since the time when European explorers traversed the northern terrain in the 16th century.  It`s a weekend when families gather together and eat a huge meal (or more) in anticipation of the dark winter days ahead.  The harvest is now in and it`s time to savour it.

While I think of my brothers and their families in Ontario, my aunt and cousins in Nova Scotia and other friends scattered across Canada, I will be with them in spirit as I dine on a divine Thanksgiving feast that I have prepared at my home in Dominica. I also feel that it is timely to personally express gratitude for all the good things that life has to offer  me on the Nature Island, and to thank all the people in Dominica who have helped me in various ways, both personally and professionally.  I am also thankful for opportunities that I have had here that I perhaps would not have had in Canada.  My life is that much richer due to the fascinating people I`ve met and the adventures I`ve had on the Nature Island, many of which are documented in this blog!

As I write this piece, Tropical Storm Gonzalo is in the area, but the sombre weather does not deter my excitement about the  home-cooked meal that awaits me. Of course, in Dominica, with its rich volcanic soil and temperate climate, the harvest is endless!  Part of  the fun is the enjoyment of different types of produce in different seasons.  For example, in the rainy season (now) avocados are found in abundance.  However, free range eggs are harder to find because the hens prefer a little drier ground for their laying endeavors. Suffice to say that it would be extremely difficult to starve on Dominica!

I coudn`t wait long once the pumpkin pie came out of the oven, as you can see.  The gluten-free flour made tasty pastry!

I couldn`t wait long once the pumpkin pie came out of the oven, as you can see. The gluten-free flour made tasty pastry!

An added perk, which is a bonus to me due to  numerous food sensitivities, is the establishment of a “health food“ store on Great George Street in Roseau.  It`s called Fresh Vitamins and apart from  stocking a variety of supplements, they sell gluten-free flours and dairy-free products, among other healthful items. This year, I baked my pumpkin pie with gluten-free flour (a mixture) and rice flour.  The pastry turned out well, although the consistency is a little denser than with regular flour.  I substituted almond milk for dairy. I really like the flavour!  But I do confess to using Libby`s pure canned pumpkin.  The local variety of this gourd is lovely and sweet, but I find its texture is stringier than northern varieties and can be too wet to bake well.  Yes, I have tried it before!

Roots Farm is always my first stop at the Saturday Roseau Market. Their delectable produce is beyond compare!

Roots Farm is always my first stop at the Saturday Roseau Market. Their delectable produce is beyond compare!

When I shopped for produce at the Saturday Roseau Market, I was delighted with the abundant finds.  My first stop was the stall of Roots Farm, where I found a selection of greens, as well as buttery lima beans, the best bananas  and the uncommon fruit called mangosteen, a treat from organic farmers Karen and Roy.  They are very serious about their sustainable farming practises and I always enjoy their nutritious offerings to the max.  You can read about their successful venture here. Then I purchased other  local fruits and vegetables from trusted vendors who offer the freshest produce at the best price.  I always appreciate tangy watercress from the river banks in the island`s interior, and I like to sample different `provisions,` that is, starchy root vegetables.  For my T-Day  (Thanksgiving) dinner, I chose very sweet  sweet potatoes.  I also found some young beets, which are not so common on the tables.  I also picked up a package of hibiscus flower sepals, to make a spicy red drink called sorrel, with fresh ginger, bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon sticks.   This particular ` red flower`seems early this year. Perhaps humid rainy weather is too its liking!

This variety of sweet potato is so creamy and buttery that it melts right in my mouth!

This variety of sweet potato is so creamy and buttery that when baked, it melts right in my mouth!

These mangosteens are an uncommon fruit on Dominica.  I was thrilled when Karen from Roots Farm offered me this naturally sweet treat.

These mangosteens are an uncommon fruit on Dominica. I was thrilled when Karen from Roots Farm offered me this naturally sweet treat.

The Nature Island`s offerings never cease to amaze me.

The Nature Island`s offerings never cease to amaze me.

The variety of fruits found on the Nature Island is astounding!  Here is a sampling: clockwise, from left, organic bananas, pineapple, papaya, avocado and mango.

The variety of fruits found on the Nature Island is astounding! Here is a sampling: clockwise, from left, organic bananas, pineapple, papaya, organic avocado and mango.

The Saturday Roseau Market is a cornucopia of fresh seasonal produce from around the island

The Saturday Roseau Market is a cornucopia of fresh seasonal produce.

The local chicken was seasoned and sauced with my own mixture of ingredients found on Dominica.

The local chicken was seasoned and sauced with my mixture of ingredients found on Dominica.

Locally-made pepper sauce, honey, thyme, parsley, green onion, lemon are all found on Dominica.  I just added a little olive oil to the seasoning  mix.

Locally made pepper sauce, honey, thyme, parsley, green onion, celery and lemon are all found on Dominica. I just added a little olive oil to this home-made seasoning mix.

I was lucky to buy the last locally grown chicken in the cooler at the Whitchurch IGA grocery store in Roseau a few days ago. They are small and tasty, even more so (I think) because I stuff them with herbs and coat them with a little olive oil, lemon and salt.  I wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and roast them while the chicken cooks.  The lima beans, carrots and arugula are steamed lightly.

It may not be a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, but it`s a  Dominican feast, for sure!

My Canadian-Dominican Thanksgiving feast.  I am going to make short work of it right now!

My Canadian-Dominican Thanksgiving feast. I am going to make short work of it right now!

Before I `break bread“ and partake of my delectable meal, I once again give thanks for the goodness that grows so easily on the Nature Island and for the numerous opportunities I have had to grow as a person here.  `We are indeed blessed,`to use a local common expression.

As for the calories sustained, an abundance of walks and hikes are planned for the near future.  You`ll read about them soon.

I give thanks for the countless gorgeous sunsets over the Caribbean Sea that I see right from my porch!

I give thanks for the countless gorgeous sunsets over the Caribbean Sea that I see right from my porch!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all, wherever you live on the planet!

 

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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!

English Immersion on the Nature Island: French Students Learn about Dominica’s Cuisine and Culture*

I love a Creole lunch! Watercress and a slice of avocado make up the greens, fried plantains and dasheen puffs and farine balls make up the starches, and grilled local tuna in a mild Creole sauce gives the protne that makes a hearty, wholesome and healthy meal!

I love a Creole lunch! Watercress and a slice of avocado make up the greens, fried plantains, dasheen puffs and farine  (from cassava flour and avocado) balls make up the starches, and grilled local tuna in a mildly seasoned Creole sauce gives the protein for a hearty, wholesome and healthy meal!

After the English immersion students from Ludicademi in Martinique spent a busy June weekend touring major sites in Dominica: Indian River; Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley; Emerald Pool; The Carib Territory and its Kalinago Barana Aute ( Carib Model Village), they dragged themselves into the classroom on Monday morning looking collectively exhausted! We were concentrating on Creole foods that day.  Fortunately, there are many of the same and similar recipes  in the ‘French Islands’, so the vocabulary lesson was not especially difficult!

Because we were not in a cooking class, I offered the students the following video clips about Dominican cooking:

Pepper sauce (r) is a prolific product on the Nature Island.  Sorrel juice (l) is a spiced drink made from the red sepals of the hibiscus flower.  It is delicious and is a Yule-tide favourite beverage.

Pepper sauce (r) is a prolific product on the Nature Island. Sorrel juice (l) is a spiced drink made from the red sepals of the hibiscus flower. It is delicious and is a Yule-tide favourite beverage.

1. How to Cook – Dominica Style

2. Tropical Vegetable and Fruit Garden Dominica

3. Cassava Bread Making in Dominica

4. Dominica Food for the Soul

I could not emphasize enough the proliferation of crops that thrive in Dominica’s fertile volcanic soil.  Some people say that you can plant practically anything on the Nature Island; You just have to stick it in the soil and watch it grow! Some farmers may disagree with me, but I suspect there are numerous places to till the soil!  There is no need to artificially season one’s recipe when cooking on Dominica:  celery, chives, green onions, peppers, parsley and thyme are a few of the herbs that thrive here.  There are also many starchy root vegetables which are traditionally called provisions : tannias, dasheen, cassava, cush-cush, sweet potatoes, yams.  There are others that grow on trees and are considered essential staples: green bananas, plantains, breadfruits, to name a few.,

We went through all the standard cooking terminology, but the class was definitely more drawn to the similarities in meals with their own country, Martinique.  We talked about callaloo soup, which is made from the leaves of the dasheen plant. It’s a popular dish around the Independence season in October and November. Some people like to add crab to their soup when they can be hunted at that time of year.  Sancoche is another tasty dish, if you like  the smoked flavour of codfish or chicken.  It is sometimes available at Cartwheel Cafe  on the Bayfront in Roseau during the year .Souse (pickled pig, cow or chicken)  delights many Dominicans.  There is also black (blood) pudding (like sausage) which can be found in Roseau and villages, largely  on weekends. On Friday nights, many little snackettes and little shops offer customers goat, fish or chattoo (octopus) water, which is a tasty seasoned broth containing these meats. Titiri are little river fish that are seasoned and fried in a batter for a filling snack called accras.  They can be found in various smaller establishments, such as Marvo’s Snackette on Independence Street (near King George V Street intersection).  There is so much more: fig pie is actually a small banana which is cooked, mashed and then baked with a fish such as tuna in a cheesy or creamy sauce.  I love it! Everyone has their own version of Creole sauce, which frequently adorns fish and chicken plates.  It contains many of the above-mentioned seasonings and usually has a tomato base.

And there are so many fruits. I wonder if anyone has an exact count of the different types.  Some of the more exotic/unfamiliar (to my hearing and/or taste) are; sapadilla; apricot (it’s huge!); carambola; pommerac; pomme citaine (golden apple); gooseberry; fwaise ( like a strawberry); canip;  tamarind;guava; papaya; cherry; passionfruit; pineapple; banana; all the citrus varieties; and that’s only naming a few! (Please excuse any incorrect Creole spellings!)

I didn’t get a chance to talk about sweets in the class – but I’ll save that fort another post!  The students made it through that day and were rewarded with a soothing soak at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs that afternoon to regain their vitality!

Dominica and Martinique share a number of cultural customs, including this type of Creole wear. The hat (tete mawe) and the jupe (overskirt) are made from madras cloth. The underskirt (jupon) and blouse (chemise decollotee) are created from white cloth, often with lace adornments.

Dominica and Martinique share a number of cultural customs, including this type of Creole wear. The hat (tete mawe) and the jupe (overskirt) are made from madras cloth. The underskirt (jupon) and blouse (chemise decollotee) are created from white cloth, often with lace adornments.

On the last morning of class, the students looked much more refreshed, and as this was the day we would cover vocabulary about Dominica’s culture, I offered them a surprise when I asked them to stand  up straight away.  Their eyes opened wide when I sang the first verse of Dominica’s National Anthem for them.  Then they performed a few songs for me, such as Frère Jacques, which we sang as a traditional round.  What a great way to start this day!

We then jumped into having a look at Dominica’s motto, Apres bondie, c’est la ter (After God, it’s the land).  The students were most intrigued that Dominica’s endangered Sisserou Parrot is a national symbol which features prominently on both the Flag and the Coat of Arms.  They were further awed when they observed that Dominica’s critically endangered Crapaud (mountain chicken) frog has a place of honour on the Coat of Arms as well.  They had just been learning about these creatures in the previous class on Flora and Fauna.

Again,  as with foods, there were many similarities in terms of traditional dress and language, as the mix of European and West African cultural practises are also evident on the French islands.   As well,  Dominica is home to the Kalinago people, who paddled up to Dominica over 1,000 years ago from South America and called the  mountainous island ‘Waitukubuli’, which means “tall is her body.”  It was Christopher Columbus who named her Dominica, as he sighted her on a Sunday  on his second voyage in 1493.

The Creole language does reflect the influence of English, French and Kalinago words, mixed with African grammatical speech syntax.  The Martiniquais students could easily understand Dominican Creole, so they were cautioned by me to only speak English when out and about on the Nature Island, as that was the point of their visit.  They assured me that they stuck to their immersion experience except when they were really confused.  I hope that wasn’t too often!

Creole wear is sometimes worn in the French islands too.  I have seen ladies at the produce markets in both Guadeloupe and Martinique sporting the colourful

Contemporary desingers such as Dora (l) create modern versions of Creole wear. She is also wearing a 'chapeau paix' (straw hat) which is a traditional head wear in Dominica.

Contemporary designers such as Dora (l) create modern versions of Creole wear. She is also wearing a ‘chapeau de paille’ (straw hat) which is a traditional head wear on Dominica.

madras cloth in traditional styles as such as the Wob Douillette, which is fashioned after French styles of the 17 and 18th centuries.  Heavy gold jewelry frequently complements the outfit, and is said to

A type of "Wob' (dress) which is worn by Madame Wob during the Independence season in 2012.

A type of “Wob’ (dress) which was worn by the ‘Madame Wob’ competition winner during Dominica’s Independence season in 2012.

have  been inspired by African traditions. The same thing can be said for dance styles of old on the Nature Island.  There are competitions all over the country that acknowledge this art form during the Independence season. As examples, the French inspired Mazouk looks like this.  A very African type of dance, called the Bélé, looks like this.  And there were English types of dance too, such as the ‘heel and toe’!

Beauty Pageants and Calypso Shows are  big part of Carnival celebrations. Miss Dominica 2012 Nadira Lando and now 6 time Calypso Monarch Dennison 'Dice' Joseph lead the Opening Parade for Carnival 2013.

Beauty Pageants and Calypso Shows are big parts of Carnival celebrations. Miss Dominica 2012 Nadira Lando and now 6 time Calypso Monarch Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph lead the Opening Parade for Carnival 2013.

Carnival is another area of Dominica’s culture with strong ties to African and European traditions.  The students said that while they do celebrate Carnival in Martinique, it didn’t seem to be anything like what Dominica has to offer.  I hope they will come back to find out during the next one! I have always described Mas Domnik as being original, traditional and fun!   I am certain that most Dominicans will agree with me.  It is celebrated in Dominica and the French Islands on the two days preceding Lent in the Catholic faith.

We also talked about the other festivities that draw large crowds from near and far –  around the time of Independence in November and the World Creole Music Festival in October.  It seems to me that there are always celebrations on the Nature Island – be

Dominica's friendly, informal Carnival means that it is possible to have photos taken with popular participants, such as Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour-Shillingford. She is also a repeat regional winner now too.  You go, girl! XO

Dominica’s friendly, informal Carnival means that it is possible to have photos taken with popular participants wearing their traditional costumes, such as Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour-Shillingford. This exceptionally talented young lady is a repeat regional winner now too. You go, girl!

Sensay costumes, seen during Carnival are rooted in African traditions.

Sensay costumes, seen during Carnival parades are rooted in African traditions.

it Hike Fest, Nature Island Literary Festival, DOMFESTA, Dive Fest, Emancipation and more.  Further details about these events can be found here.

Internationally-renowned Dominican divas Michele Henderson (l) and Ophelia Marie performed at the 16th annual World Creole Music Festival in 2012.

Internationally renowned Dominican divas Michele Henderson (l) and Ophelia Marie performed at the 16th annual World Creole Music Festival in 2012.

The last hour of the  class was given over to a special guest, who knows culture through and through.  The Cultural

The French students were very attentive to Gregory Rabess's instruction about culture in Dominica

The French students were very attentive to Gregory Rabess’s instruction about culture in Dominica.

Division’s Gregory Rabess   is a Creole specialist, poet and musician.  He elaborated dramatically on the bits and pieces of cultural history and subsequent  vocabulary that I had offered the group.  They hung on to his every word!

Cultural Division Officer Gregory Rabess emphatically demonstrates a point to the class.

Cultural Division Officer Gregory Rabess emphatically demonstrates a point to the class.

We were all especially delighted when he closed the session with one of his own Creole compositions that required active class participation in the refrain.  It was in Creole language of course, so the only person who perhaps missed some of its meaning was me!

Although I was extremely tired after the four English immersion classes, I did thoroughly enjoy my short and sweet teaching stint.  I wish the students of Ludicademi in Martinique the best of luck with their continuing studies of the English language and their English-speaking neighbour , Dominica.  I hope I will see them again sometime on the Nature Island.

Reference: Africa and Dominica by Lennox Honychurch, PhD.

*This mini English immersion course was organized by Tina Alexander of Lifeline Ministries, Roseau Dominica.  Thanks for having me along, Tina!

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!