ST. VINCENT + THE GRENADINES
ST. VINCENT + THE GRENADINES
The awning of this Flatlands Avenue Caribbean joint is not necessarily enough to draw the casual explorer inside, but some of the exotic words on the glass storefront are. What exactly is oil down and tania logg anyways?
Speaking with the people here for a moment, it is clear that they want to have the moniker of being pan-Caribbean and not hole themselves into one or another of the island nations. Flags from many are displayed from each along the bakery counter in front. The one seen in the photo below is Dominica. The largest flag of the place, on the wall in front, is that of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the home of the owner.
You can find oil down in a couple other nearby countries, but only Grenada claims it as its national dish, and furthermore uses it as the name of a neighborhood party you may be invited to if you happen to make friends. It is now on my bucket list to get invited to one of these possibly all-day parties where everyone pitches in to help prepare the dish.
What an oil down ($10, small portion, below) actually is, sensual massage jokes aside, is a very hearty stew of breadfruit and coconut milk, callaloo, dumplings, plantains, and an assortment of meat. An oil down comes to life when the oils from the coconut milk simmer out and combine with the other ingredients. It is all cooked in one pot and allowed to do this for quite some time. the lady here called the stew a curry, and effectively it could be as coconut milk and a generous amount of curry powder makes the broth.
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Along the top of the photo above you see one of the extremely dense dumplings that are served in the dish, guaranteed to fill you up even in its small rendition. I was asked when I ordered if I wanted everything in it, and regardless of whether I know what the list of "everything" entails, I usually make it a point to answer this question in the affirmative. I was greeted with a dish of chicken, pork, and fish combined. A lot of the former two meats were very bony and seemed to be more for flavor than bites. A quick search online about it brings to light the fact that all manner of parts of a pig is usually included in the pot when this is cooking, and some of those are bound to end up on your plate.
I also ordered a cup of the Grenadian cocoa tea ($1.50, below), a smooth but barely chocolatey drink that was quite tasty. I did note a hint of something savory in it, but could not distinguish it.
I enjoyed sitting here and listening to the jovial singing and laughing of the cooks from the kitchen, which drowned out the Jesus-themed radio that was playing. I kept looking over to the bakery cabinets, wanting to have a sweet tooth, but on this day the baked goods seemed like an afterthought. Of the four or five customers that came in to grab takeout while I was sitting here, everyone went for hot meals. When one lady from Grenada spotted me eating my oil down, she asked me about it and was quite proud that I had ordered and enjoyed the dish. She and her companion ordered one to go, and if it were not for the scarves and hats and winter coats we were all putting on to leave, it could have felt like our own version of the island party.