Emancipation Village 2010: African Food Fair Part 3 – Official Food Court (video)

After about half an hour of casual conversation and enjoyment of the musical offerings of the ‘Village Radio’ the rain eventually lessened into a drizzle. This seemed to be the right moment to wander through the official ‘Village Food Court’.


Curious as to what I would find, I quickly realized that the offerings were really more Afro-Trinidadian cuisine than continental African. I was glad to an extent to see local Trini fare on display but again, had hoped to have been more exposed to less familiar fare. In stark contrast to the easygoing atmosphere by the TTABA stall, the majority of vendors on this side of the Fair were rather surly and withdrawn. Curt cries of “Buy something nah” were met with steely silence when they realized you were just browsing or only wanted to take a picture or ask some questions. Not really the best approach to loosening wallets, especially as the rain was beginning to pick up again.

J and I picked up our pace and turning a bend found a welcome haven from the rain (both in terms of structure and atmosphere). Open and easy-going, this vendor actually welcomed our conversation and we were more than happy to buy some of her homemade local specialties (of which she had many on display).

(from top left) Mango chow, Red Mango, Bermudez biscuits, Kurma, Tamarind Balls

(from left) Holiday brand nuts, Fried Channa (chickpeas), Fried Plantain Chips, Peanut Brittle

I was glad to hear her say that the foot traffic had been steady during the week-long festival and that she had done well. The day’s downpour was definitely responsible for the low attendance. Freshly armed with kurma and tamarind balls we continued trekking past the rest of the stalls advertising corn soup, shark ‘n bake and other local specialties, drawn to none in particular, as most demeanours were as gray as the skies above.

With the rain picking up and nothing holding our attention we decided to return to the much more hospitable TTABA area. Leaving the court however a sno-cone man caught my eye.

Yes the rain was getting heavier, and a gusty wind was picking up, but regular readers of this site will know that snocones are my kryptonite. I was not leaving without one! Preparing for another gruff reception, I was so relieved when he broke into an easy smile as we walked towards him. What a difference that makes! For those not familiar with local snocones, ours use a dense guava syrup that is just divine. Some take theirs with a topping of condensed milk but I prefer mine without.

Kryptonite Snocone in hand, I could now relax again, as we headed back to our former table to enjoy our ‘dessert’

(clockwise) Guava-soaked snocone – he really packed the ice well so we got a LOT more than we expected :), Tamarind balls – perfect, not too sweet, not too sour. Only thing missing was a ‘lil pepper’ but ‘small ting’, Kurma (fried cardamom dough sticks) – again perfect. Crunchy without breaking your teeth, and the right amount of crystallized sugar, Tamarind balls (interior shot) – for those not familiar with them, tamarind balls are sweet and sour confectioneries made from tamarind pulp, sugar and often (at least here) pepper.

As I watched the small but steady trickle of visitors I was taken with the sounds of the kora. The instrument was quite prominent in many of the tracks being played on the soundsystem. Prior to that day I had not known of this instrument, now thanks to the afternoon’s playlist and accompanying explanations by ‘DJ Braithwaite’ I can’t get it out of my head!

Kora Music From Senegal

From Wikipedia:

The kora is a 21-string harp-lute used extensively by peoples in West Africa.
A kora is built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator, and has a notched bridge like a lute or guitar. The sound of a kora resembles that of a harp, though when played in the traditional style, it bears a closer resemblance to flamenco and delta blues guitar techniques. The player uses only the thumb and index finger of both hands to pluck the strings in polyrhythmic patterns (using the remaining fingers to secure the instrument by holding the hand posts on either side of the strings).

Read more about the Kora on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kora_%28instrument%29

At this point we had viewed and sampled everything that was on display. Just a few more stands required our attention…

Tomorrow: Departure/Final Thoughts.