Two men stand under a white collapsible market tent set above a broken driveway. The tent takes up all the room between the garage and the short wall that runs along the sidewalk where we stand.
The first man takes our order and our cash. I ask for two doubles, “slight pepper.” The cost is five Trinidadian dollars or about $1 Cdn each. The other man, in a single flowing motion, places two rounds of puffy, soft, fried dough overlapping on a piece of thin paper laying over his palm, adds hot chana (chickpeas) and a spicy mango-curry sauce, and with a twist of his wrists rolls paper and contents into a tight package.
|Monday Magazine restaurant reviewer Allan Reid|
It takes him all of two seconds to produce my two doubles. Each dough round is about the size of a taco, but has the fragility of an omelet. The thin paper wrap offers no reliable structure to hold this wobbling mess together. In fact, the paper disintegrates while I try to figure out how best to get this semi-soupy something into my mouth without dropping it all down my front. No plates or cutlery are provided.
I choose to cup the thing in one hand while using the other to try to pinch it together so that I can bite into it without squirting it everywhere. My method works, but later I am told that I eat like a white man.
No surprise, I suppose, though I couldn’t see how I ate any differently than the other customers around me other than being less practiced: less elegant.
While I am absorbed with the task of staying clean and not wasting a single bite, my friend and guide tallies the production. In the 15 minutes it takes me to order, receive and eat my doubles, that man wraps more than 100. That’s $400 Cdn per hour, and, my friend tells me, the input costs are perhaps 10 cents per double.
There are innumerable such stands all over Trinidad. Doubles might be the national breakfast food of the country, but by noon the stands are gone, for roti may be the national lunch food.
Back in Victoria, I hear about Trini To D Bone, and I have to go. But first I have to find it in a mostly residential neighbourhood just west of the Pacific Forestry Centre on Burnside Road, next to the Burnside Market.
The place is conspicuous by its large sign above windows painted with a big pink flamingo, swaying palm trees and ocean waves. Inside, the colours are bright orange and green with blue trim, and the walls are festooned with artistic imagery of Trinidad (the owners’ collection of shot glasses is a bit quirky).
The menu is, as Trini’s say, slight. The house specialty is roti, which they serve in a half-dozen ways, but there is also fried chicken and my objective: doubles. I have come with two friends and we order up eight doubles ($3 each), some mild, some medium (slight pepper), and one hot for Andrew, for whom no heat is too great. My medium has a powerful enough burn for me.
Even non-disintegrating paper does not offer much help. Twin twists like devil’s horns hold everything together until those twists are unwound, and then you’re on your own. My first sloppy bite took me right back to that stand on a Trinidadian side street. The same soft dough barely containing the same juicy, sweet-and-spicy filling: delicious, and two or three is satisfying.
Trini To D Bone
650 Burnside Rd. W.