Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Street Food Saturdays : Preserving our culture

Published:Thursday | August 10, 2017 | 8:00 AMKrysta Anderson
Chef Simone Walker-Barrett posing proudly with her meat lovers' platter.
Pan turkey taco, ready to savour.
Try the mac and cheese balls, sweet potato wedges, breadfruit fries, fried festival and cabbage slaw.
Seafood anyone? Roasted fish and conch ready to move from the grill to your palate.
Samoy Smith chopping the jerked pork for all to savour.
For the vegan lovers, you can indulge in the scrumptious vegan pasta.
Janis Dixon enjoying the jerked pork.
Suelan Williams and Maurice Jackson with their adorable daughter Suri, pause the picnic for a family photo.
A closer look at the mouth-watering garlic shrimp pasta.
Javoy Sawyers is in a happy mood with his breadfruit fries.
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Indulging in your choice of mouth-watering dishes in the cool hills against the backdrop of a beautiful, flowing river sounds amazing, doesn't it? Well, now that dream can become a reality with Street Food Saturdays.

We're back by popular demand with our food series, Street Eatz, and last Saturday, we travelled to Mount James in west rural St Andrew for the highly anticipated monthly foodie event. You know how they say it's not about the destination, it's about the journey? It is the absolute opposite on this occasion. Approximately 25 minutes from Manor Park, Street Food Saturdays is located in the community of Mount James, and takes place on the last Saturday of every month. Signs had us on the right path, and by the time we arrived on the scene, we were greeted by the community's serenity. A river running adjacent to the venue provided the ideal setting for patrons to sit back relax and enjoy all things savoury and sweet.

Chef and lecturer at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Technology Jamaica, Simone Walker-Barrett, is no stranger to scrumptious dishes. As a matter of fact, according to her brother, Brian Walker, for as long as he can remember, his sister has always loved food. That passion and skill for preparing local dishes with a Mediterranean twist has effortlessly woed eager taste buds, winning over the hearts of so many who have been blessed enough to taste an item from her menu.

"The event actually began as a research for the school on how to preserve the traditional way of cooking, via wood fire. After the research, my husband and son suggested I do this, so I turned it into an active research. Three months later, we added a roadside picnic, and now it has become a riverside picnic, going strong for almost three years," Walker-Bennett explained to Food.

She continued by noting that they try to use locally grown seasoning and meats, like local rabbit, lamb, pig, chicken and even duck. The aim of the event was to promote culinary tourism at the local level, and she returned to her roots of Mount James to make it all happen. Patrons, she confessed, have come from both near and far for her food, and are always fascinated by the flavour of the wood fire, "As a professionally trained chef and an educator, I wanted to show the younger generation that this is what we have in Jamaica, and play my part in preserving this practice. Apart from my family, culinary students will volunteer and they are always amazed by the technique used." She continued, "Our aim from this active research was to get 3,000 persons to visit the community within the first two years. So far, we've exceeded our target, having more than 4,000 persons come to the community." That, she revealed, excluded the numbers from last Saturday.

So why should you attend Street Food Saturdays? You're guaranteed fabulous food in a rustic and comfortable, hassle-free environment. So if you love nature, and love preserving our culture, Street Food Saturdays is the right place for you. And as for the food, the proof is in the taste. You definitely don't want to miss this palatably euphoric experience.

For information, follow the group on Instagram: @streetfoodsaturdays or on Facebook and Twitter: Street Food Saturdays

krysta.anderson@gleanerjm.com