It’s Saturday and the sky has been grey all morning. From the funeral service to the countryside for the burial, there’s sadness and reflection. As you’re standing there trying to fight back the tears, the sky opens up and it starts pouring. People comment that it’s a blessing as their voices become dull background chatter. Making your way through the thick mud to put that rose with your kiss on it as a final goodbye to your favourite Uncle, someone calls you Maressa.
You don’t pay much attention to said person because that’s one of your sister’s names. You're focusing on your grief and the person keeps talking. You still don’t hear it. You’re thinking of your Uncle's final wishes for the Trinidadian food that he loved that you will get to eat in a couple of hours after the burial in his honour. In this edition of SnackTAYku International, it’s all about curried goat and everything that makes up a fantastic lunch as a celebration of the life of your loved one. It’s also about gravediggers moonlighting as DJs and it’s hilarious. Huh?
I'll get to most everything on the plate and more in a while. People tend to eat with their eyes first, so this may not look appealing at all but don't knock it until you've tried it!
Perhaps it is only in Trinidad where a funeral can turn into a comedy show. When your Uncle’s gravediggers are a right comedy troupe, it’s sort of hard to ignore. In their eyes and many others, singing loudly as a send off is the most respect you can give to someone. For them it's about sending off a great man not with tears but with the joy that he felt in his life, knowing that his spirit would welcome a laugh too. This funeral was definitely treated as a celebration of life and it was quite the honour to give my Uncle.
And apparently, a funeral's a dating hot spot as well.
The rest of the time after the burial was spent telling that story over and over to anyone who would listen (seriously, why couldn't I have a regular lunch story to tell like Nach?). It was told over a meal that my Uncle requested in his final days when he was in the hospital.
That my friends is a real deal cooking pot. The size of that thing means serious business.
What a meal it was too! It was made better (and yes, sad too) sharing memories of him while we poured over curried meats, vegetables and roti. Lots of roti. On a day like that, there are many wonderful Trinidadians in the kitchen cooking over various pots with delicious scents wafting through the house. It’s a beautiful thing in an otherwise terribly somber day. The food celebrates life. The scorpion peppers as seen above...those are to be eaten at your own risk.
Those curried chick peas (or channa) are back again! Eating this with roti requires you use your hands, so forgive the messy pictures. It's messy business eating curry but also a lot of skill if you're used to it. For the record, this is my brother's messy plate.
There is no better sight that this. This is a type of roti called paratha (or buss up shot). It's so buttery, not really flaky and so soft. I could eat this by itself, it's that good.
But it also goes well with the pumpkin you see there. The pumpkin has been cooked down. It's not a runny mess but firm, almost as if it's been crushed. That's not quite right either but it's good. It's sweet but definitely more on the savoury side. It's not like eating pumpkin pie filling. But the hint of sweetness is a good complement to the salty curries.
This here makes me swoon.
Curried shrimp - not too salty and delicious.
This here is curried mango. It's got a nice sweet to it that does more to balance the aslt of all the other curried meats.
And here it is. This is what my uncle requested. That piece of meat there is some curried goat. Along with rice, it's one of the best things life can ever offer me and has. All of life's joys lie in a single bite. Flavour knows no bounds here. The complexity of all the spices in the curry, the slight hint of pepper here and the rice just so perfectly balances it. Bliss.
During lunch at some point, one of my cousins brought a bag full of scorpion peppers. Trinidad has the hottest pepper in the world at the moment in those moruga scorpion peppers and I wanted to know just how hot. I have to say... if your family of hot pepper experts DENY you the "joy" of eating the thing raw, you should probably listen. And I did. They actually barred me from eating it. Even just the tiniest bite, they wouldn't let me take it. These are people who are used to picking up a scotch bonnet or a bird pepper and eating them raw. So I decided to heed their advice but I was sad. But then, they brought it out...
Oooooooooo. Pepper sauce made with scorpion peppers! And I can eat it!
I was advised to eat a very tiny amount. What? Even though it was blended with other things and the heat tapered down, they told me to go easy. So...I did.
I put one drop on one piece of goat. And...
...and they were right. It was hot. It was flavourful being blended in a pepper sauce but it had bite. I was not burning afterwards because I only had the tiniest bit but eating a lot of pepper sauce as I am accustomed to? Yeah, I could see how that would maybe not be a joyous experience.
But it looks so innocent... yeah right. Look at that scorpion tail looking thing on it.
It’s the days after when you get back to routine and are not surrounded by all your family that you have time to reflect and get consumed by sadness. But here, I will always remember my Uncle for his great sense of humour, his love of Trinidadian food and pork (oh how he loved pork) and his kindness. I’ll have some curried dishes to eat in the future and I know every time I put a piece of curried goat in my mouth, I’ll smile and think fondly on him knowing that if he were here, he’d steal that last bite from my plate… I’ll cherish those quiet moments.