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