Happy New Year & Happy New Carnival Season Soca-lovers!
After a short holiday break, Miss Rose is back with another blog-episode especially for you.
I tried hard not to let the Dominican holiday-craziness take me over (in my new home, the Dominican Republic, people tend to lime right through around this time of the year just like Trinidadians), but I'm simply weak when it comes to rum. Wait, there's something else I'm extremely weak to. Remember my last episode, where I spoke about Gum's wife Rose, who was cooking up a pot by their booth around the Savannah one day? Well, what she was cooking up was a pot of delicious mouth-watering 'oil-down'.
'Oil-down' is a tasteful stew of breadfruit, salted meat, chicken, dumplings, callaloo, and other vegetables, all stewed in coconut milk, herbs, and spices to make a hearty and flavorful one-pot meal. It is called 'oil-down' because the coconut milk simmers down and releases its rich flavored oil into the pot. Oil down is particularly famous in the Southern part of the English-speaking West Indies, this means T&T, Grenada and Barbados. I think it traditionally comes from Grenada, but don't tie me down to it please. I remember that in Grenada I felt like in heaven with all the different types of 'oil-down' variations I found ... saltfish, lambi, lobster, you name it.
For Gums, Rose and the rest of the family, making oil down seemed like a day-long ritual of preparing all the ingredients while entertaining visitors who would pass through during the day. Rose put some kind of spell on me with her 'oil-down', which made me want to be informed every time it was "oil down day", and I would leave anything behind that day just to go by the Savannah for my plate.
I remember what felt like the luckiest day of my life, when Gums called me and told me he would save a plate of 'oil-down' for me. It so happened, this was also the night of Army Fete - one of my must-DO events for Carnival - which takes place every year right at the Savannah. Army Fete is not just called Army Fete, but it is actually a fete hosted by the army, which is why it is known as "The Safest Fete for Carnival". Since there are so many armed army soldiers present, who also sometimes take wines by the way, literally anyone feels safe in this fete. For me personally, this is one of the things that makes Army Fete so special: People from any social background come out to Army Fete without worries, and because of that it is one of those fetes where you meet EVERYONE (unless maybe the really stush ones, who we don't want at a fete anyways).
The front of the stage at Army Fete tends to be taken over by men with extremely-low-waist pants and gold teeth, and ladies with really long nails and coloured wigs. Although this part of the crowd does get a bit rowdier, the entire crowd still fetes together quite peacefully-bacchanalish. Out of personal experience I can tell that you definitely have the most fun with the rowdies in the front, but it is quite a cultural experience as well, which may leave you traumatized, depending on your rowdieness-tolerance-level.
Army Fete is also one of those fetes that gives you great price-artiste value, given that many big artists make sure to show up as they see Army Fete as a traditional fete which needs to be kept alive. Last year Machel claimed he would never stop performing at Army Fete, although we don't really know if it was the rum or the powder speaking, or both.
Anyways, the point is, Army Fete is a must for every Carnival-goer! And if you are hungry afterwards, you may even get some delicious oil down somewhere around!
People, we all know that after Christmas Carnival kicks-off, so let's get this 2020 season started!
Stay tuned for my next episode.
Love, Miss Rose