Party Done

Ash Wednesday. Carnival is officially over. My sore feet, aching calf muscles and suspiciously scratchy throat are testament to the wonderful time I had dancing through the streets of Port of Spain. Today is the day some people dutifully head to church to have purifying ashes applied to their foreheads while thousands more are checking the Lost and Found for their pride, dignity, self respect, and decorum. Luckily I am still in possession of my core values despite spending two days wearing very little.

The weather forecast for Carnival Monday and Tuesday was sunny with a 100% chance of raining bumpers. The meteorologists were spot on. Thousands thronged the streets in search of bacchanal. Not everyone can keep up with the hectic pace though. To quote my husband – it’s a series of sprints, not a marathon. Opportunities for rest are limited so I grab every chance. At 4.00pm on Carnival Tuesday afternoon I was asleep on the Harts Rest bus; recharging my batteries for las’ lap.

The Carnival season is a difficult thing to explain to people who have never experienced it. At what other time of the year does one get a license to break every fashion rule and party non-stop for six weeks? When else would one consider traversing the streets of a capital city dressed in a bikini and strategically placed glitter? Where else can one see a half-naked man jump into a bathtub filled with mud at three o’clock in the morning? Trinidad and Tobago is a very conservative country but during the Carnival season, anything goes.

The rising cost of Carnival has not dimmed the general population’s enthusiasm for the festival. Every year we pay more money for less costume. The fetes are no different. The average all-inclusive fete ticket is equivalent to a monthly car payment. However I have noticed that the more expensive the fete ticket, the more people are admitted free of charge. Personally I have no problem with this – I gratefully accept all freebies.

In preparation for squeezing into that tiny costume, I spent the past four weeks on the Jorge Cruise Happy Hormones, Slim Belly Diet. Twenty-eight days (give or take a few lapses) spent chomping low sugar, high protein food paid off. I lost a few pounds and more importantly, inches off my thighs, enabling me to shimmy into trousers gathering dust in my closet.

Unfortunately my weight loss joy was short lived. Three days of eating all manner of off-diet fete food during Carnival weekend led to me waking up bloated and apparently five months pregnant on Carnival Monday. To hell with Jorge and his diet. I don’t want to see celery, cream cheese or avocado for a very long time.

As much as I love Carnival, my mas-playing days may be numbered. I’m used to young men saying “Hello Aunty” in my living room but when it happens on the road – in the band!- it is mighty disturbing. I don’t want to be rubbing shoulders – or any other body parts – with my kids’ friends in a Carnival band.

And don’t talk about the pernicious glitter. I changed the sheets and scrubbed every inch of my body yet I still glisten in the sun. Then there’s the mud and paint. Up to this morning I had to clean paint out of my ears. A trip to the spa might be in order.

My body needs to recover and the country needs to get back to work. The wave of visitors over the Carnival season is both a blessing and a curse. Yes we want those lovely tourist dollars, especially with oil prices falling. But tourists bring other things with them I can do without, thank you very much.

At the height of the Ebola scare Government ministers began hinting at cancelling Carnival. Public outcry ensued. In T&T society, partying and revelry trump the risk of wining on an Ebola bumper any day. Luckily the Ebola outbreak was contained and mas leaders around the country breathed a collective sigh of relief as the spectre of diminished Carnival costume dollars faded away like smoke from the La Basse.

A new health issue emerged to taunt us, yet curiously I seemed to be the only one concerned. Never mind Ebola, what about the influx of unvaccinated Americans? I like living in a measles-free country. No-one else was worried about this? Just me? Alrighty then. If I were the Minister of National Security – and let’s face it, in T&T anyone is qualified to do the job – I’d insist on no entry without proof of Measles Mumps Rubella immunisation.

Thankfully the mass exodus began today. Carnival season is like swimming in a sea of Freshwater Yankees. They outnumber every other tourist group and are omnipresent. For my non-Trini readers, a Freshwater Yankee is a Trinbagonian national now residing in the USA. Their accent is a strange blend of American twang and Trini lilt; only marginally less annoying than finger nails on the blackboard. Having said that, Carnival would not be the same without them. Every year I delight in watching them hit every fete, eat every local dish, and get lost trying to find the entrance to Grand Bazaar.

The Lenten period of reflection and sobriety begins today. Like all good Christians I will be abstaining from something – although I am not sure what that something is yet. Right now I am still basking in the glow of one of my best Carnival experiences ever. Machel and Angela say party done…for me the memories are just beginning.

 

 

 


Christmas Musings

By now several of you reading this are feeling the effects of ingesting an average 7000 calories per day for the better part of a month or so. My yoga pants are now skinny jeans and every maxi dress is my new best friend. I might also need a new liver but every drop of Prosecco was worth it.

This is also the time of year when most Trinis realise they have no chance in hell of losing the Christmas weight before Carnival, and panic sets in. I literally broke the scale when I stood on it yesterday. (I’m not even kidding. The plastic window cracked and pinged off the bathroom wall.) I interpreted this as A Sign and immediately purchased Jorge Cruise’s Happy Hormones, Slim Belly off Amazon.

A good portion of this week was spent lying in bed nursing a post-Christmas cold (inevitable result of forced close proximity to germ-harbouring friends and family) and reflecting on a frenetic Christmas season. Christmas is my favourite time of year. I love everything about it – the food, the music, the fellowship – everything. Well, almost everything. Why is it that far too often Christmas brings out the worse in us?

Take driving for example. Why do people drive so badly at Christmas? Do The Powers That Be circulate a secret memo at the beginning of December mandating cackahole driving and dickhead parking? How else can one explain the upsurge in straddlers, those wonderfully considerate drivers who take up two parking spaces by straddling a white line instead of parking between two lines? And let’s not forget the Pushmattees who force their way into a congested intersection effectively blocking movement of traffic in any direction.

My irritation with Christmas driving is eclipsed only by my aversion to Christmas shopping. Shopping of any kind is a major challenge but food shopping in December is a nightmare. Supermarkets turn into dangerous places. People get real ignorant when it’s 6pm on Christmas Eve and there’s only one tin of cranberry sauce left on the shelf. I had to share a six-pack of sorrel shandy with a fellow shopper after we reached for it at the same time and neither one of us wanted to let go. He’s lucky I wasn’t desperate.

Emotions are particularly close to the surface at Christmas time. Forget road rage – trolley tantrums are the new public hissy fits. Try cutting into a checkout queue that snakes along the aisles. You’re likely to be beaten to death with a frozen ham.

Retailers capitalise on our hunger for consumables by opening new stores in time for the Christmas rush. There is something mesmerising about an “Opening Soon” sign. No surprise then that like the rest of the sheep I shuffled through the welcoming doors of the latest mega supermarket in my neighbourhood.

What I love about mega stores – you can literally buy anything from a can of soup to a computer in one spot. What I hate about mega stores – unless you know the layout you can spend two hours trying to find toothpicks.

Eyes pointed upward, we push our trolleys uncertainly down the aisles simultaneously trying to read the signs to find what we came for while being distracted by an enticing array of goods we don’t normally buy. Roasted red pepper pesto with almonds? Oooh, yes please. We end up taking twice as long to complete a simple shopping expedition and spending three times as much as we intended.

Isn’t it about time supermarkets had one-way aisles? Instead of jockeying for position in the pasta section wouldn’t it make more sense for us all to be moving in the same direction? Think of the trolley tantrums that could be avoided.

Let’s say you manage to successfully navigate the shopping and traffic quagmires. The real trial of the season is the family gathering. As much as we love our relatives, they also irritate and infuriate us. Tempers flare easily at Christmas time, particularly when alcohol is involved. Long held grudges have a habit of boiling over with the turkey gravy.

We all have that uncle or cousin who thrives on drama and needs no invitation to dominate a family gathering. This is the family member who turns up drunk for Christmas lunch, tells off-colour jokes, and confesses (loudly) to sleeping with their sibling’s spouse before passing out in the sherry trifle. This season my relatives in England provided the family punch-up and dammit, I wasn’t there to see it.

My mother looks forward to Christmas Day with a malicious glee. It is a golden opportunity for her to criticise my every action; from my cooking to the way I style my hair. It was gratifying therefore to see the genuine delight in her eyes as she opened my Christmas present to her, an ipod. Of course she couldn’t help giving a backhanded compliment: “This is the first time you actually gave me something I asked for” #OyVey

By Boxing Night the food coma is wearing off and most of us have had enough family bonding, thank you very much.  We cling to the promise of New Year’s Eve and the opportunity to press the annual reset button. My New Year’s Eve was far from exciting. I spent it policing my property thanks to my teenage daughter and her friends throwing a rather noisy party at our house. The neighbours who didn’t hate us before now do; and those who did, feel justified in calling the police the next time we throw a party.

Despite the cackahole driving, trolley tantrums, and family drama I had a great Christmas season and look forward to doing it all again this year. By December I will have forgotten how long I spent standing in queues and how frequently I swore at other drivers. All I will remember is the delicious aroma of Christmas food, laughter, and the overwhelming sense of relief as I sat down to Christmas dinner surrounded by those I love most.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

How was your Christmas season? Do you have a tale of woe/mirth to tell? Please share in the comments below.

 


Excuse Me While I Butt In

Yesterday, Wednesday 12th November 2014, Kim Kardashian attempted to break the internet. If you don’t use social media you may have missed this. Well, the internet didn’t break, but Kim did manage to add a crack (pun intended).

Today Kim threw a pair of melons in the mix; and just in case we weren’t sure, showed us where North came from. Not surprisingly this sparked an internet and talk show frenzy of outrage and admiration, in almost equal proportions. Meanwhile the producers of Paper Magazine are gleefully rubbing their hands together and counting the ka-ching.

Here’s my take: Well played, Miss Kardashian, well played. Kim succeeded  once again in manipulating the media and getting exactly what she wanted – all of us talking about her. Love her or loathe her, Kim is a marketing genius. She knows exactly what she is doing. Before you start hating on me, hear me out. I am NOT debating the morality of Miss Kardashian’s actions; nor am I arguing what she did was right or wrong.

People who say Kim K has no talent are wrong. THIS IS HER JOB PEOPLE. Kim’s job is self-promotion and she’s exceptionally good at it. Whether or not this is a worthwhile, honourable, wholesome profession is a whole ‘nuther discussion. Kim figured out at a very young age that her body was the key to her fortune. She branded it, exploited it, and sits that big booty on an even bigger pile of cash as result. Do I envy her? No. Do I wish I had her money? Hell yeah. Let’s get real people. Who doesn’t want to win the lottery?

Kim earned widespread condemnation for choosing to pose nude. “She has a child! She is a mother!” screamed the trolls. Really? I wasn’t aware women stopped being sexual beings post-motherhood. If so, I didn’t get that memo.  And do people honestly believe that women working in the “adult” industry don’t have husbands and children tucked away at home? Puhleease!

Several women in public life have posed nude or semi- nude, garnering praise and admiration in the process– Demi Moore, Janet Jackson, Jenny McCarthy, Pamela Anderson, Marilyn Monroe – the list goes on and on. Are we condemning Kim because she is already so overexposed?

Kim K irritates people because she is good at (apparently) doing very little. We not-so-secretly resent her ability to make millions through self-promotion while the majority of us working stiffs struggle to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. It is difficult to respect someone so obviously self-serving but I do admire her business sense.

“What will she tell her daughter when she grows up and sees those pics?!” Kim will tell North: “Mommy made a lot of money when she was young and pretty and that’s why you got a Lamborghini for your 16th birthday.” All jokes aside, who are we to judge the long-term effects of Kim’s career on her child? I try to be a good mother but I am hardly the Perfect Parent. WHO IS??

Many people believe Kim’s pictures were offensive and racist because she was naked and oiled; in the same manner African slave women were presented for sale, minus the chains. They argued that as the mother of an African/Armenian/American child, this was an insult to baby North.

*Deep breath* …If you look for racism in everything you will find it. Hand on heart I do not believe Miss K considered the possible racist connotations of the photo shoot. Kim is clever, but not very smart. I am sure the decision to use baby oil was based on “OOOH that will make my skin look fantastic!” Don’t assume that because Kim is married to a black man she has any clue of what it is like to experience the world as a black person. Baby North West will open Miss K’s eyes to several truths that no amount of money can overcome.

Miss Kardashian is cashing in on her assets. More power to her I say. Looks fade, asses droop, and breasts sag. Thirty years from now Kim might look back on her actions and think “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.” Then again she might be sunning herself on a luxury yacht off the coast of St Tropez and thinking “F*ck you biatches. I had the last laugh.”

What do YOU think?


Yuh Know You Is A Trini Too

Trinidad and Tobago is famous for many things – the smallest country to qualify for FIFA World Cup Finals; home of the Pitch Lake, the largest natural asphalt deposit in the world – to name a few. Perhaps T&T’s greatest claim to fame is their people; a diverse mish-mash of cultures and ethnicities that blend together perfectly to make a unique population with equally unique idiosyncrasies. Last year I blogged about how to spot this peculiar species in Yuh Know You is a Trini. Here are a few more identifying characteristics!

For those of you not familiar with Trini parlance, please refer to the Trinbago Dictionary here.

Yuh know you is a Trini too if…

…You are half Indian, half African, half Syrian, half French Creole, half Spanish and a quarter Carib.

…KFC deliverymen hail you out in the street

…You have several margarine/butter containers in your fridge containing anything but butter or margarine

…You fear maljoe

…You know somebody who knows somebody who has been jarayed

…Your name is Akil or Keisha; spelt with 10 letters and 2 apostrophes

…You had 300 guests, 6 groomsmen, and 6 bridesmaids at your wedding – and you’re unemployed

…You can’t spell Blanchisseuse

…Your car bumper sticker is “Ah What Less”

…You have a drawer full of plastic HiLo shopping bags

…At least one member of your family is a pastor/priest/pundit/imam

…You know a pastor, a policeman, and a bandit – and they’re all the same person

…You use the noun “ting” liberally – “Well look ting!” “Ting start” “Da’s he outside ting”

…You keep a cutlass and a box of tissues in your car

…You never run out of Crix

…You have given and received a good cuss out

…You spent your rent money on weave

…You don’t know what a zebra crossing is

…You know where to find Red Man

…Your boss is your sister’s baby daddy’s uncle’s half-brother

…You put coconut oil or Brillocream in your hair

…You douse your neck and chest in baby powder to keep cool

…Your have your loctician/barber/hairstylist’s number on speed dial

…You don’t wash and iron clothes on the same day for fear of contracting cramp

…You have no money on your phone

…You go out to come back

…You keep a sweater at work for when it rains

…Any temperature below 20°C is considered freezing

…You spend at least $50 a week on Lotto, Play Whe and scratch cards

…You plant something in your garden every Corpus Christi

…Your main source of news is Twitter

…The only time you used a turn indicator on a car was during your driving test

…Driving PH is your side gig

…You musical idol is 2 Chainz

…You believe ketchup is a vegetable

…Your sister posted a video of you getting licks from your mother on Facebook

…Four generations of your family live in the same house

…You sub-let an HDC apartment from your aunt

…Your Facebook status is “horning”

…You keep piles of old newspapers for “in case”

…Your email address is sexydouglagyal13@hotmail.com

…You have no idea what the sign “Take One Only” means

…You’ve already made a downpayment on a Carnival 2015 costume but you haven’t thought about Christmas yet

 

I’m sure there are many more idiosyncrasies I did not mention. Add yours in the comments below!


The Tipping Point

Someone somewhere at some time wrote the rules of tipping. Someday something will drive me to study said rules. Until then, I blunder forward in ignorance.

A little person (I don’t know what is the politically correct term; I just know I can’t say dwarf or midget) packed my groceries last week. She was so short she could barely get the bags into the boot of my husband’s SUV. So I ended up helping her.  Short on change (no pun intended), I gave her all I had – the magnificent sum of TT$3 (US 50 cents). She gave me a look, which quite clearly registered her disdain, and I shrank to two foot six.  Sheepishly I got into the car and drove off feeling guilty. I had committed a tipping offence. I am a repeat offender.

A few years ago I shared a van from Toronto’s Pearson Airport to my hotel downtown with other travellers. At my destination I offloaded some Canadian coins my father had given me on the van driver. He studied them, looked up at me and remarked sarcastically “Haven’t seen one of those for a while!” Oh, the shame…

I have a vivid memory of exiting a London black cab aged 11 or so with my mother and hearing the cab driver shout at my mother ” Don’t you people give tips?!” That sharp rebuke stung me to the core and left me with a morbid fear of being considered cheap because I am black.  I’ve gone so far as to apologise to taxi drivers when I don’t have enough money for a tip. But is an apology enough? Is it ok to express your regret and move on, leaving the other party disgruntled? Or should I hand over my vex money and hitchhike home?

When it comes to dining I firmly believe it is unwise to piss off the wait staff, particularly if you intend to visit the establishment again. Bad tips leave bad memories.  I’m convinced an uncomfortably large number of disenchanted wait staff would cheerfully leave a DNA imprint in my entree should I be regarded as miserly.

My husband, who clings to a dollar tighter than Cersei Lannister holds onto a grudge, thinks differently. As far as he’s concerned, people are paid to do a job. What do they need tips for? I try to always leave something. Memories of that cab ride haunt me.

I live in a country where tipping is the exception rather than the norm, so I am always a bit flustered when persons demand a tip. On a recent trip to Panama, a taxi tout actually chased my husband and I to the car and opened the door to demand his reward for pointing us in the direction of the taxi stand.  Fearing cab cartel reprisal I hastily handed over five bucks.

Contrast the Panamanian tout’s attitude with my T&T experience last month in the car park of a doctor’s building. After helping me fold my mother’s walker and get her into the car in pouring rain, the security guard refused a tip, insisting I was making him feel guilty for doing his job.  I cannot win.

Why can’t Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet publish Country Tipping Tips? That would prevent idiots like me from annoying the natives. Who to tip? When to tip? And how much? I’m not ashamed to admit I need help distributing small change.

Until the Tip With Confidence bible is written, perhaps you guys could help me? Share your tipping advice and mishaps in the comments below. You have to be better at this than I am.


Going Pecans

This blog post is dedicated to Gina Henning, author of Going Pecans.

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Gina Henning is an American author of contemporary romance and commercial fiction. Click here to buy Going Pecans  on Amazon

Contact Gina:  Facebook    Website    Goodreads   Twitter

 

When Twitter pal Gina Henning invited me to join her Blog Hop “Going Pecans” to promote her book of the same name, I readily agreed. The premise is fun; write about a time when you were going nuts, i.e. pecans. But then I thought – what should I write about? Should I blog about the time I unwittingly signed up for HUET (Helicopter Underwater Evacuation Training) so that I could work on an oil rig? Or the time I was pursued by Mormons? Running out of money while backpacking solo across Europe certainly generated a few hairy moments. I eventually decided on the insane period following the birth of my second child.

Husband, two year old son and I were living in a rented house in Cambridge, England. Short story – we had just returned from eighteen months in Mozambique and tenants were living in our own home. We were happy to be back in Cambridge where we’d spent many previous years.

They say that having a baby changes your life. Well, DUH. “They” also say that when you’ve had one baby, the second one is easier. Bull crap. The arrival of my daughter catapulted me into a Twilight Zone of perpetually crying children, an endless laundry pile, and a permanently screwed sleep pattern. I couldn’t even seek solace in a decent Sauvignon Blanc. Nature is cruel.

I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Whole days were spent in a front-opening nightgown with a toddler clinging to my leg and a baby hanging off my breast. Brushing my teeth and showering regularly became dimly remembered luxuries I could no longer indulge in. Sitting on the toilet with the door open became the norm. I needed the door open so that I could yell “It’s OK darling! Mummy’s coming just now!” over the combined wailing of my offspring.

Watching Orange Is The New Black recently brought back vivid breastfeeding memories. It was the episode where Polly answers the door to Larry with a nipple poking out of her unbuttoned shirt  Pride goes out of the window when you have a screaming child to feed. I couldn’t give a toss who saw my tits as long as a nipple in her mouth shut my daughter up.

Mealtimes – what mealtimes? – were forgotten altogether. My husband and I wolfed hasty bites of whatever scraps we could find between nappy changes and shoving fish fingers and mash into our son.

I envied my husband’s daily escape to interact with The Real World. I was stuck in an endless cycle of Children’s BBC (I can recite every word of dialogue from every episode of Postman Pat ever made), breastfeeding, and strategic cleaning. (I can’t call it housework. Everything was a mess). I was truly “going pecans”.

Even the simplest of chores became a major undertaking. A trip to the supermarket was a mammoth task. The sheer effort involved in getting a baby and a toddler dressed to face the British winter and strapped into car seats could take the best part of a morning. At least all I had to do was throw on a coat. No-one needed to know I was wearing a grubby T-shirt and sweatpants over yesterday’s knickers. As for make-up, don’t be ridiculous. A good twenty minutes was usually spent tracking down where my son had hidden the car keys. Inside the video recorder and behind the settee were favourite places.

We’d arrive at the supermarket and after parking in one of the coveted “Mother and Children” spaces I would spend the next forty-five minutes hissing at my son through gritted teeth “Benn! Come here! Put that down! Leave it alone!” By the time we got home I would be stressed, my son would be over-excited, and the baby would be cranky.

If it hadn’t been for my local National Childbirth Trust Mother and Baby Group I would have lost it altogether. NCT Group was my salvation. I lived for the weekly encounters with other harassed new mothers, several of whom were also doing the second child shuffle. We spent our meetings exchanging tips to stop Child No 1 from killing Child No 2 and bitching about our irritatingly calm husbands who took the changed family dynamic in their stride instead of having screaming hormonal breakdowns.

For two blessed hours I was in the company of women who were in exactly the same situation and handling it equally badly. There was something strangely comforting, indeed satisfying, in sharing our tales of woe and maternal failure. We bonded over rumpled clothes (who the hell had time to iron?), sleep deprivation, and sore nipples. Misery does indeed love company.

Not for the first time I appreciated the ability of sisterhood to save my sanity while nourishing my soul. As crazy as the time was – days would pass before I remembered to comb my hair – I wouldn’t have swapped the new baby-toddler-circus for anything. I understood this was a learning curve. I was starting at the bottom but I would get better. Or at least better at faking being a Domestic Goddess, with the support of my fellow new mommies.

Did I mention Nature is cruel? So cruel that when you become proficient at faking Domestic Goddesshood, Nature makes you forget the newborn hell and knocks you up again. The arrival of Baby Number Three threw me into a fresh nightmare. But that, my friends, is the subject of a whole ‘nother story.

 

Going Pecans Blog Hop

Please follow along and enjoy these great blog posts below. Everyone who comments on every single post will receive a Going Pecans Recipe Card signed by Gina Henning. Please be sure to include your email!

August 14th

Gina Henning Blog

August 15th

Waiting On The Westcotts

Anya Breton’s Blog

Missy Devours Delish Reads

August 18th

Kasper’s Ramblings on the Hunters of Reloria Website

August 19th

Loss For Words

The Edible Bookshelf

In Search of Romance

August 21st

Helen Rena

August 22nd

Word Forward

Amber Daulton

Ana Blaze

August 25th

Keepin it Real

Feeling Beachie

August 26th

Krysten Lindsay Hager

Anais Morgan: Things are about to get hot

DM Brain Waves-dmarblog

August 28th

Wilson Writes

August 29th

Writing About Love

See Bethany Blog

Lover of all things crafty

Susanne Matthews

Stumbling Towards the Finish Line

 

Click here to enter the Going Pecans Raffle!

 

 


Seared Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tartare

 

20140806_202336It is avocado season in Trinidad and Tobago and I have been experimenting with ways to enjoy my garden’s bounty. Tuna and avocado make a particularly delightful pairing thanks to the variation in flavour and texture. This quick and easy recipe makes a delicious lunch or light supper for four people.

 

 

The avocado should be firm and just ripe. Refrigerate the avocado for at least 2 hours before starting.

The recipe is based on locally sourced ingredients. However international chefs can happily make the following substitutions without changing the nature of the dish.

Substitute:

1 small jalapeno (seeded and finely diced) for  Trinidad hot pepper

Cilantro for shadon beni

Fresh oregano for parsley

 

Yield – 4 servings

Ingredients

4  5-6 oz sushi grade tuna steaks ¾ inch thick

6 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 large avocado peeled, pitted and diced

2 teaspoons diced Trinidad hot pepper

1/3 cup chopped fresh shadon beni

1/3 cup diced red onion

2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley

1 – 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Instructions

First, make the avocado tartare. Mix the avocado, hot pepper, shadon beni, onion, parsley, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a bowl. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and place in the refrigerator. The tartare must be well chilled.

Next, prepare the tuna. Stir the sesame seeds in a large heavy skillet over high heat until the seeds are a pale golden colour, about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a large plate.

Sprinkle the fish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dip the fish into the seeds, coating on all sides and pressing the fish so that seeds adhere. Return the same skillet to high heat. Brush the skillet with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Add the fish to skillet and sear until the coating is deep brown on the outside and still opaque in the center, about 1½ minutes per side. If you prefer your tuna more well done, you can cook for up to 2 minutes each side. Transfer fish steaks to work surface and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Thinly slice each steak and arrange the fish, slices overlapping on plates. Add a quarter of the avocado tartare to each plate. Garnish with lettuce leaves if desired.

Enjoy!

 

 


Savour The Date

As Ramadan draws to a close, Trinidad and Tobago and Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr.  The overriding thought on many Trinis’ minds today? Which Muslim friend or family member am I eating by tomorrow?

Trinbagonians equate celebration with food. We love to eat. For every occasion, there is a dish to match. What trip to Maracas Beach would be complete without a bake and shark? Or a river lime without curry duck? Unimaginable. Going to Panorama Semis or cricket in the Oval? Pass the pot of pelau.

Trinbagonians take meal times and holiday food favourites seriously. Christmas is not Christmas without ham, turkey, pigeon peas, pastelles, ponche crema and all the local delicacies. I made the mistake of substituting a pork leg for roast turkey one Christmas Day lunch. My family revolted as one and were still complaining on New Year’s Day.

Every May 30th, dozens line up outside roti shops from early o’clock to get their curry fix. Luckily I don’t have to. I’m convinced the world would stop spinning on its axis if my mother didn’t cook curry duck and buss up shut on  Indian Arrival Day.

And can you really envision Eid without sawine? Divali – or Currylympics, as it known in my house – is an exercise in binge eating. How much curry can one consume in a day and still have room for left-overs?

I love that as a people Trinbagonians celebrate every holiday as one, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. This is the true beauty of our rainbow nation – the ability to come together and share each other’s heritage.

So stir the sawine, fry the samosas, and grill the lamb kebabs. Eid Mubarak – This hungry Anglican can’t wait to indulge.

 

What are your special occasion/holiday culinary traditions? Please share in the comments below – yum yum!


The Catalan Chronicles

I’ve always wanted to visit Spain. I have been to just about every other western European country but somehow never made it to Spain or Portugal. When the opportunity came to spend a few days in Barcelona with my daughter, I jumped at the chance.

The entertainment began at Gatwick Airport.  I am frequently amused by the sartorial choices of my fellow travellers. I remember the days when getting on a plane was A Big Deal; and people dressed up to travel. Men wore ties and children were trussed up in Sunday best outfits more suited for church. These days it is not uncommon to see people boarding a flight in pyjamas. The unofficial flight uniform for females under 30 is micro shorts and a hoodie.

Wearing dark jeans and a t-shirt, I looked like a burqa-clad granny compared to the other passengers. In between the conservatively dressed families our flight from London to Barcelona included a cross dresser in a pink tutu, a he-she in a floral get up Hyacinth Bouquet would cherish, and persons of all ages and sexes sporting more flesh than fabric. I felt sorry for the young woman forced to don half the contents of her suitcase to conform with EasyJet’s weight limitations – but I enjoyed the reactions from the male members of the check in queue when she bent over to put on pants.

A few short hours later we were in Barcelona and I was ready to explore my new surroundings. Mini Me however, was not. She flaked out as soon as we arrived at our hotel. After admiring the view of Barcelona Cathedral from our room, our first night in Catalonia was spent in peaceful slumber.

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Avenida Catedral 7 by night

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1

What could be better than a trip to the legendary Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona? As it turned out – nothing. Camp Nou was a sports lovers’ paradise; a state of the art stadium with a treasure trove of football paraphernalia. I marvelled at the impressive silverware collection; ogled Lionel Messi’s four Ballon D’or awards, and squealed with delight as I walked through the tunnel leading onto the pitch. Having lunch at the Camp Nou lounge overlooking the pitch was le pièce de résistance.

A Sliver of Silver - A few of FC Barcelona's many trophies

A Sliver of Silver – A few of FC Barcelona’s many trophies

Camp Nou

Camp Nou

Camp Nou Stadium

Camp Nou Stadium

 

Camp Nou Lounge

Camp Nou Lounge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I blissfully munched grilled octopus and sliders while sipping perfectly chilled Chardonnay. It was impossible not to be overwhelmed by the rich history and romance of Camp Nou. Even the Real Madrid fans defiantly strutting around in their away kits were impressed.

That evening, after a tactical time-out (i.e. a nap), Mini Me and I ate paella on Las Ramblas and shared a sangria bucket while watching the world stroll past. Continental European fashion style is fascinating. The men, for the most part, are impeccably groomed and buff, with carefully coiffured hair held in place by expensive product. The women strut around in impossibly high heels draped in outfits that are absolutely on point, with hairstyles and makeup to match – and plaitable underarm hair. I also observed several women rocking pelts. Clearly keeping it natural is still A Thing in Europe.

Heterosexual and gay couples walked arm in arm down the avenue, chattering animatedly in multiple languages. I revelled in the relaxed atmosphere and easy acceptance of all God’s children.

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barcelona Street Life

Barcelona Street Life

Day 2

Having been advised by Friends With Knowledge that no trip to Barcelona was complete without a visit to La Sagrada Familia, we joined a few hundred others and queued for tickets to explore the legendary cathedral. It did not disappoint. Even my jaded teenaged companion was struck by the breath-taking beauty of Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece.

Irrespective of religious persuasion, one cannot help but be touched by the sheer majesty of the building. The intricate and unusual architecture of La Sagrada Familia is extraordinary.  I tried to visualize the finished building but honestly couldn’t imagine further gilding the lily.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia - Internal

La Sagrada Familia – Internal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left La Sagrada Familia with dozens of photographs and a sizable bag of commemorative souvenirs.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia - Internal

La Sagrada Familia – Internal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our third and final night in Barcelona, we ventured to Plaça d’Espanya to see Font Màgica. Hunger gripped us as soon as we exited the Metro. We made a beeline for the nearest tapas bar and were soon feasting on small plates of heaven.  Fortified by tasty morsels and yet more sangria, I resumed my favourite vacation activity – people watching.

Plaça d'Espanya

Plaça d’Espanya

There was plenty to see. We’d barely walked 50 yards before Mini Me was gaping open mouthed at the naked – yes completely naked – and hairless, except for her Lady Godiva style tresses – performance artiste strolling up and down in front of us. Public nudity didn’t appear to be a criminal offence. Two policemen stood idly by playing with their phones.  Fellow passers-by seemed similarly disinterested. While Mini Me and I gawped, people barely registered Godiva’s presence. Momentarily mesmerised, I forgot I had a camera. But before I had a chance to take a cheeky (pun intended) pic, Godiva slipped on a dress and the show was over. We walked on.

Plaça d’Espanya was packed with people taking advantage of the warm Catalan night and free entertainment. A large crowd gathered around Font Màgica and we jostled for position with the hundreds of others attempting to take selfies near the beautifully lit fountain. After taking in the synchronized light and water show, we wandered over to the stage where a concert was in progress.

La Font Màgica

La Font Màgica

La Font Màgica

La Font Màgica

To our delight, the concert was a drag queen talent show. It was fantastic! We were treated to Eurovision-style song and dance acts with costumes so elaborate they’d make a Trini Carnival designer jealous.

 

It was at this point that I began to notice the composition of the crowd around us. The spectators were a curious mix of tourists such as us, the odd family with young children, couplings of every sexual orientation possible, and a surprising number of bearded men in frocks.

Much as we were enjoying the show, the hour was getting late so we reluctantly made our way towards the Metro station. On our way out of Plaça d’Espanya we passed several stalls selling food, drink, and the kind of items usually stocked in the back rooms of stores you need to be 18 years and over to enter. I couldn’t resist a closer look. It’s not every day you see an 18 inch dildo for sale in a public square. (I guess it depends on where you live.)

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I’m very open-minded. Well at least I think I am. But I confess to being somewhat nonplussed by the sights and sounds. Until I saw this sign as we exited the square:

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The penny dropped. Suddenly everything made sense! The cross dressers and he-shes on our flight; the drag queens; the unusual stalls. Mini Me and I had unwittingly attended our first Gay Pride Festival! Definitely an experience to be repeated.

Day 3

From fake penises to Pablo – our Catalan adventure concluded with visits to the Picasso Museum and Barcelona Cathedral. To say that Picasso was a child prodigy is an understatement. His early work displayed a depth, maturity, and perception so uncommon in a young teen I couldn’t help but compare him to my own fifteen year old son. (I made a mental note to speak to his art teacher as soon as I got home.)

After the splendour of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Cathedral seemed somewhat bland in comparison. But it glowed with a quiet beauty and tranquility that refreshed my soul and energized me for the journey ahead.

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I inhaled the Cathedral’s peaceful atmosphere alone, Mini Me having been turned away at the door for unsuitable attire. (Backless mini dress at a Catholic Cathedral? Seriously? She looked for that.)

As we boarded the flight to London a few hours later, I bid Barcelona a sleepy adios. My final thoughts? What Schwarzenegger said.

 


Keep Calm and Play Mas

We’re in the home stretch – the week before Carnival. This is the time of year that thousands of Trinbagonians have been pining for since February 13th 2013. National productivity levels over the next two weeks will drop to record lows while alcohol consumption and partying scale dizzy heights. From now until Las Lap Carnival Tuesday it’s non-stop feting. If you can’t handle the winery, best to leave the country now.

This is the only time of year when traffic lights are needed on the footpath around the Queens Park Savannah as people jostle for position; desperately trying to fit in as many workouts as possible before Carnival Monday. Every public green space and gym is crammed with sudden fitness fanatics frantically trying to work miracles. Trinidad is the only place I know where people eat themselves into a food coma at Christmas then expect the Fitness Fairy to transform their bodies into a living work of art eight to ten weeks later.  (*raises hand* – guilty)

Carnival itself is a great workout. We do more bicep curls, squats, and good ole peltin’ waist in two days than we can manage all year. People who normally can’t make it around PriceSmart without an oxygen tank will blissfully jump the length and breadth of Port of Spain without complaint. Even our facial muscles get a thorough workout from eyes popping, ear to ear grinning, and lustily singing lyrically-challenged compositions.

Thanks to Mr. Killa’s Rolly Polly, sales in XXL spandex leggings and fishnets tights are at an all-time high. To misquote Sunny Bling – man toting more meat than rice these days and big girls are rejoicing. Trini men think they can handle anything but many a man has attempted to test a bam bam and found himself up against a penis destroyer. Free caution tape for dangerous bumpers should be standard issue during the Carnival season – “Wine on this at your own risk”. I agree with Machel – we need a Ministry of Road to handle Carnival affairs. The Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism just ain’t cutting it.

The Ministry of Road should have a department that specialises in Carnival Clothing Legislation. Carnival fashion is always a lottery and the odds of good taste are not stacked in our favour. Peacocking is not only allowed, it’s expected. And what ridiculous lengths we go to in our efforts to be noticed! A woman at Prestige Fete this year was proudly flaunting black pleather shorts, black knee high boots (presumably also pleather?), skin-tight gold spandex top, and a gold lamé cape. Who the hell wears a CAPE in everyday life?? It certainly shouldn’t be anyone who remembers the day Kennedy was shot.

There is a fine line between cosquelle and clown. Unfortunately, with the fashion police taking their annual vacation during the Carnival season, this line can be hard to see. (Blame Machel for fogging up de place.) The seemingly nationwide obsession with exposing as much flesh as possible – because we “tun up” – pushes common sense aside in favour of the ghetto fabulous and the garish. I remember asking a friend – where do people go to buy these clothes? I don’t know what is more ludicrous – that shops actually sell such eye watering couture, or that people buy it.  And judging by the number of women strutting around in boots you’d think Trinidad and Tobago had undergone a drastic climate change.

Competing for attention with the atmosphere of gaiety and abandon are the usual controversies and bacchanal without which no Trini Carnival would be complete. Annual favourites for the season:

  • Fete promoters being threatened with injunctions
  • Carnival artistes complaining about prize money
  • Woodbrook residents complaining about noise and traffic
  • Masqueraders and band leaders protesting changes to the parade route
  • Panmen claiming disrespect

And the list goes on and on…because this is the FIRST time we are hosting Carnival. To quote Sparrow – we like it so.

Musically the 2014 soca crop follows the tradition established in recent years – catchy, disposable wine and jam fodder we will have forgotten by this time next year. But I’m not complaining. The music pleasingly numbs the senses and consolidates the real purpose of Carnival – a temporary escape from the grim reality of everyday life in Trinidad and Tobago. Let’s face it – if we didn’t have Carnival (and 14 Public Holidays) life here would be really hard to deal with. Between now and Ash Wednesday I will be moving  like Iwer – going round country mashing up fete; fete after fete after fete. I’m claiming Carnival immunity for all my actions over the next week. It’s not me – blame it on the music.

What are your Carnival plans?

Who will take the Road March title this year?

Can you really lengthen a dhoti with cloth?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.


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