The Spice Necklace Blog

Ann's Blog

Toronto, Canada:
June 21, 2010
Lucky me: A week with double doubles

I arrived back in Toronto on Saturday after a trouble-free trip from Grenada via Piarco International Airport in Trinidad. Nothing goes to weather like a 747, as sailors like to say. Handily, my Grenada flight landed in Trinidad at 8 a.m. – perfect timing for a breakfast of doubles. I learned from our Trini friend Jesse years ago that if you walk to the very end of the terminal building, head outside, and turn left, you’ll likely see a cluster of people – airport employees, taximen, flight crews, and travelers in the know – around a little stand where a vendor is constructing this uniquely Trini fast food, the national snack addiction.

The doubles man is a blur of high-speed motion as he slaps a piece of paper into the palm of one hand, and lays on two pieces of bara, an East-Indian-style, deep-fried bread. Seamlessly flowing from one container to the next, he tops the bara with curried channa (chickpeas), mango relish, and pepper sauce. In a final flourish, he gives the ends of the paper a couple of quick twists to bring the whole thing together (or leaves it open, flat, if you prefer, and plan to eat it on the spot). He does this again and again – some customers are leaving with bags of four or six (a stop here is part of arrival procedures for returning Trinidadians who’ve been longing for their doubles fix) – pausing only to replenish his supply of warm bara, from an insulated box behind him.

A Coleman-type cooler with cold drinks rests on the ground, and a small sink behind the stand allows patrons to wash before and after eating. Even in experienced hands, doubles can be messy business; amateur doubles-eaters may feel the need for a change of clothes, as well as a hand and face wash.

I step up to the stand and order one. It disappears way too quickly. I go back and order a second, and this time I manage to eat it slowly, savoring the ritual: ripping off a small piece of bara and twisting it around some of the channa and toppings, and then trying to maneuver it into my mouth without dripping. (Help me here, Trinis: Why do I always run out of bara before I run out of channa?) I also savor the taste, of course: the irresistible contrast in textures and flavors, the light (almost fluffy) bara dissolving in my mouth with the melting-soft chickpeas in their curry sauce, the combo sharpened by its topping of spicy mango and quick blast of pepper heat. (I ordered my doubles with only “slight pepper,” and, believe me, that was plenty of heat.)

doubles man_Curepe
Doubles your pleasure: This vendor has staked a street corner in the town of Curepe to satisfy the late-night cravings of hungry Trinis.

If you can’t tell from the above, I adore doubles – and this is my lucky week. I’m going to get a chance to savor them again…this time, in Philadelphia. On Thursday night, First Person Arts, an organization that focuses on documentary art and memoir, is holding a Caribbean event called Edible World: Spice Necklace, combining the cuisine of Trinidad with my new book.

I’ll be sharing stories of our adventures and reading from The Spice Necklace. Usually, I don’t eat before I talk, but this time I’m afraid I’ll have to make an exception: Dinner is being catered by Trinidadian chef Claudette Campbell – and she’s starting things off with doubles.

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