Rosemary Parkinson, Gleaner Writer
Left: Cou Cou served with beef stew and a piece of sliced sweet potato. Right: Pudding, dark and white and souse served with pickle and breadfruit.- photos by Rosemary Parkinson
The Pelican Arts and Craft Centre under the umbrella (as Rihanna has been signing worldwide) of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), held one well-attended festival. With the blessing of Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Mia Mottley, and many more from the weather god, it was sheer determination that had the event jumping from Friday to Sunday with barely a glitch.
The highway alongside the coast and Pelican itself, was shut off to traffic, and a large stage built for entertainment by Peter Ram and The Boogie Night Band (the latter performs every Saturday at the Plantation Entertainment Centre on the South Coast with delicious Barbadian buffet). At Pelican, those who braved the stormy weather took to dancing under the wooden pergola that faced the sea and the stage. The well-known Biggie Irie, strutted his stuff on Sunday night, bringing the event to a reggae close. But this was not before designers from across the Caribbean, showed off the best in Caribbean wear on an 80-foot long runway. The village itself was tented at every corner showcasing Barbadian arts and crafts with demonstrations on "how-to-make" - among them was a Guyanese contingent who mesmerised with the versatility of coconut shells. The shops within the complex also gave Barbadians the opportu-nity to see what local products are available daily at Pelican.
The young and the old, families and children (the latter having their own entertainment such as face painting and playground), were overjoyed to see "The Pelican Dooflicky" - a group that includes stilt walkers, beautiful women in period costume, tukk bands (drummers and dancers), even the wicked pierot or junkanoo - called Shaggy Bear in Barbados.
Hanschell Inniss was a major sponsor, and their grilling station gave patrons an opportunity to taste the various products under the label Farmer's Choice. Guyanese curries and rotis were devoured at another booth. A Rastafarian whose area was extremely crowded, had juices made from various local fruits, definitely getting the golden seal of approval, the golden apple (June plum) being the big favourite. Cou Cou Stick still under renovation, opened its doors to give a hint of what is to come - the best in Barbadian fare in a colourful Barbadian atmosphere.
Saturday brought out the Bajan must-have. As I said to one English visitor, "if you don't eat this on a Saturday, you won't have a good week!" Believing me, he tried it. His response? "Well I loved the pudding, and the veggies on top, but was not too sure about the pork." Pudding and souse is made up of either steamed pudding or pudding in its casing. Let me explain. Steamed is obviously that, but if the mixture is placed in pig intestine casing, it looks like a sausage. This latter type comes in two colours, one with a little 'browning' and the other 'whittish'. I still feel that the spicy, peppery, savoury black pudding made from pig's blood found in Trinidad (the tops), Dominica, St. Vincent, St.Lucia and the French islands more to my taste. But the Barbadian pudding that is sweetish, is indeed good. The souse on the other hand, consists of 'features' and trotters - all parts of the pig head (nose, cheek, ears, tongue) with trotters being the feet. Pieces of pork meat with bits of fat are added. Boiled in seasoned lime water until soft, placed in a brine of 'prickle' (really pickle) made up of grated cucumber, lime, scallion and peppers. Delish.
Cou Cou Stick also offered the near-bursting-at-the-seams restaurant three different types, turned corn meal with okra, green banana and pigeon (gungo) peas. Creole saltfish, steamed and fried flying fish and marlin, yam and macaroni pie, Bajan peas and rice made with gungo, pork and beef stew, fried, baked and stewed chicken. If you're in Barbados in about two weeks - visit Cou Cou Stick for de real traditional ting. The usual team of ladies from Archbishop Granville's Sons of Apostolic Spiritual Baptist Church, did all the cooking. And as I am in charge of the artistic renovations taking place, I brought in my own helpers - Coleen and Theresa - Bajan and Guyanese respectively and pretty enough to keep the men at the bar happy 'till de lass minute before closing!
Even the children were interested in the culture of Bajan crafts.
First the country saw Caribbean and international chefs and mixologists making great nosh all over the island during Taste of Barbados with a farmer's market at the same Pelican, and Farm to Table Tours that took in the best of agricultural products with demonstrations on how to cook 'we ting'. According to Michelle Smith-Mayers of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), "we want to see more participation by chefs from other islands, not just the international ones, this year we made a start with those from Trinidad and Jamaica." Sandra Browne (BIDC) adds, "NOVA wants to go even further (NOVA is the name they derived from the concept of a rising star, a new beginning for Pelican, and, of course, all happening in November during Independence month). We want to see the Caribbean using NOVA as an opportunity to share their arts, crafts, fashion designs, and the wonderful differences in their cuisine. Next year, we hope to have many more sponsors on board and more islands participating.
Perhaps each island should have a person specifically appointed to join in talks with others across the Caribbean, to work out these festivals from island to island. This would ensure that; (a) they do not clash, (b) they are able to showcase each other in a meaningful way and (c) that they are organised so that airline carriers and hotels can have travel and accommodation specials. The Caribbean could become the the centre for carnivals, food festivals, cultural happenings and the vision is endless.