The Spice Necklace Blog

Ann's Blog

Philadelphia, Pa.:
June 26, 2010
Edible World a tasty treat

I can’t vouch for anyone else who came to the Chestnut Hill Hotel for the “Edible World: Spice Necklace” event the other night. But I can tell you that the guest speaker (me) certainly enjoyed the evening, thanks to Claudette Campbell’s wonderful cooking, and the enthusiasm of the audience. I loved the Q&A after dinner – which included some very specific questions about our day-to-day life on Receta, such as where do we get our water and how do we shower.

(The answers, for those of you who weren’t there and are curious, is that we either jerry-jug water from shore or, whenever possible, use our rain-catching system: a large piece of canvas that hangs like a big shallow bowl over Receta’s foredeck and funnels rainwater into our tanks. And we shower outside, in the cockpit, using a solar shower, which is essentially a heavy-duty polyethylene bag with a handheld sprayer on the end. We fill it early in the day and put it on deck in the sun. By late-afternoon shower time, the water is wonderfully hot – sometimes hotter than we want in the Tropics. The weather cloths that surround the cockpit to protect us from salt spray while we’re sailing also provide privacy for showering.)

Ah, yes, the doubles. (See my June 21st post, “Lucky Me: A Week with Double Doubles.”) Served with Claudette’s homemade tamarind chutney and mango kuchela on top and her homemade sinus-clearing pepper sauce on the side, they were indeed an authentic taste of Trinidad. So too was the rest of her delicious dinner: stew chicken, accompanied by rice and pigeon peas, salads, and fried plantains. 

edible world_doubles
It's a wrap: The doubles were delivered
twisted inside wax paper, just like they are in Trinidad
These last were the best I’ve tasted. Claudette had chosen perfect ripe plantains and fried them until their edges caramelized, bringing out their natural sweetness. (They were so deliciously sweet that some new-to-plantain eaters incorrectly assumed they had been sprinkled with sugar.) Much to my regret, I didn’t get to try her Tante’s Slaw – other guests called it the best cole slaw they’d ever had – or her homemade pound cake.

edible world_plate and book
A double helping of island flava:
Claudette's food was the perfect match
for my book (photo courtesy Mia Aronson)

When Claudette arrived in the dining room and took the mic after we’d eaten, she was delightfully forthright about the path that led to her Trinidadian food stand, called Calypso, in the Chestnut Hill market – she actually came from Trinidad to attend medical school, but got sidetracked – and about her cooking techniques. (The secret to her stew chicken is seasoning the meat with various herbs and long marinating it.) But no one was going away with detailed specifics about what was in the various dishes. As she rhymed off the ingredients in, say, her bara bread for her doubles or the marinade for her chicken, the list always included some unspecified “tings.”

edible world_claudette
Meet the chef: Claudette Campbell delivered the taste of Trinidad
(photo courtesy Mia Aronson)

You can bet that on my next visit to New Jersey to visit Dad, I’ll be building in a return trip to the Chestnut Hill farmers market, so we can visit Calypso. I’ve got to try that Tante’s Slaw – and I hear Claudette also makes killer roti. Besides, I’m already longing for more doubles.

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