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'Yam-ing' on Melrose Hill

Published:Tuesday | November 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Vendors seek a sale from a motorist at Melrose Hill.
Cook shops at Melrose Hill, Manchester. - photos by Robert Lalah

There's little fuss involved in the preparation of roasted yam, but this clearly doesn't matter to Elton, a truck driver from Seaforth, St Thomas.

Elton is an unrepentant yam-obsessed food lover who makes a stop at Melrose Hill in Manchester twice every week to get his fix.

"Yes man! Mi haffi get mi yam, man!" he said holding a steaming slice between his fingers. Elton closed his eyes and took a whiff of the yam and a generous slab of saltfish he had in his hand. "Ef mi go one week and nuh get mi yam mi just feel poco poco. Mi just nuh feel, like, haughty," he said.

Elton was the first person I met at Melrose Hill's popular roadside food stop. There you can get anything from fish and chicken, to yam, soup and sweet potatoes. It's most crowded there on the weekends but during the week is when you'll likely run into Elton. He drives a delivery truck from Kingston to St Elizabeth two times every week. That's when he makes his yam stops.

"Last month mi boss tell mi seh him ah go switch mi round and put mi pan di Portland trip. Mi seh no boss! Yuh caan do mi dat! After mi nuh nyam pork," said Elton.

A short, shifty-looking fellow standing nearby snickered. I hadn't noticed him before.

Elton glanced at him, scowled then turned his back to the man. He muttered: "Ah beg him waan come beg piece a di yam, yuh know. All di while him do it. Yuh see how him ah screechy come over? Mi and him tideh!"

I looked over at the man who really was now closer to us than he was the last time I checked.

Not, wanting things to get weird, I asked Elton if he had a specific vendor he liked buying yam from.

"No, nuh really," he said. "Yuh find seh most ah dem people yah inna di business long time, so dem know dem ting. Yuh have a young lady who come on here nuh too long. Mi nuh really taste har hand yet, but mi hear seh she boil good soup."

I could sense some movement beside me and when I looked to my left, I saw the potential yam beggar almost right under my nose. Elton turned around at the same time and spotted the interloper.

"What is it yuh want now?" Elton yelled. "What is it yuh really want?" The man appeared to quiver and looked at me, apparently for support. I shrugged.

"Ah simell yuh simell mi yam, don't? And yuh want fi beg piece, don't?"

Elton was very agitated. His sudden change in demeanour was alarming.

"Well, not today, yuh hear? Not today! Today yuh gwine buy yuh owna yam!"

The fellow sauntered off without saying anything. I felt a bit sorry for him and asked Elton if he really could not have spared even a smidgen of yam.

"No sah! Mi do it one time and him come back. Mi do it a next time and him come back again. Me nuh play wid yam yuh nuh bredrin. Worse is Manchester yam. No sah, mi sorry, but mi nuh play wid Manchester yam," he said.

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