On Saturday July 19, Go Eat Give hosted its monthly Destination Dinner at Tassa Roti in Alpharetta, showcasing the culture and cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago. This event is a part of Go Eat Give’s monthly programming that aims to promote cross cultural understanding between different communities in the Atlanta area.
The menu for the evening consisted of 18 authentic Trinidadian dishes prepared by Caribbean restaurant Tassa. Trinidad native Radhika (Ria) Edoo, a fourth generation restauranteur Tassa opened the first location in 2006. For appetizers, we tried traditional jerk chicken wings, pholourie (fried batter) served with mango chutney, and doubles (a sandwich made of two pieces of flat bread and stuffed with chick peas) with tamarind sauce.
Fourteen dishes were laid out buffet style for main course, allowing those in attendance to eat to their heart’s content. These included coconut fish, spicy coconut jerk pasta, a brown stew made with boneless pork, jerk chicken, Bodi (a bean favored in Trinidad), jerk chicken (Trinidad style, not Jamaican), fried plantains, lentils, Chow Mein, oil down ( a stew made from breadfruit, salted meat, coconut milk, and spices), and Roti (shredded flatbread). In addition, two curry dishes were served – curry potatoes and chickpeas as well as boneless chicken curry, showcasing the large Indian influence found in Trinidad culture. The country’s most popular dish, callaloo (creamed spinach) was also served, as well as, rice and peas to go with the many stew and curry dishes. For dessert, we enjoyed a moist pineapple cake, paired with complimentary Champagne.
As party goers arrived at the event, they were greeted by the sounds of steel pan player Sheldon Webster. The steel pan is a drum made out of 50 gallon oil drums that is popular throughout the Caribbean, although nowhere more so than in its native country of Trinidad.
The music of Trinidad was further showcased by DJ Mackie, who took attendees on a journey through the history of Trinidadian music. Some of the Trinidadian music played consisted of traditional calypso and soca music, both of which are native to Trinidad. Once they were finished eating, event attendees danced to the lively music, creating an atmosphere of festivity that is typical of life in Trinidad.
Guests enjoyed the comedic commentary of Nigel Fabien, a stand up comedian who performs here in Atlanta, as well as in his native Trinidad. Fabien entertained the guests with a series of jokes, showcasing the lively humor of Trinidad’s people.
Keynote speaker and former president of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Georgia, Allan Notingham gave an informative speech on the history of Trinidadian cuisine. He spoke of the many cultural influences that make up Trinidadian cuisine, such as Indian, Asian, and African, and asserted that Trinidad culture is proof that different races can come together in peace. He also emphasized the importance of Roti, which is cooked on an iron flat plate, and doubles, which he called the fast food of Trinidad. According to Notingham, these are the two most important dishes in Trinidadian cuisine.
To further showcase Trinidad culture, costume designer Charles Baker displayed his designs used for the Carnival celebration. Carnival is a street festival that takes place every year immediately before Lent, and typically consists of a parade, elaborate costumes, and lots of music. Baker’s designs were grand, covered with glitter and feathers in all different colors. He stated that these costumes are an art form, a way for the person wearing them to express themselves and free their spirit, an assessment that I agree with when looking at the elaborate, multicolored designs.
Destination Trinidad was by far the liveliest and most fun Go Eat Give event that I have ever attended. There was dancing, comedy, and amazing food. The native Trinidadians at the event were all humorous, upbeat, and good-natured. All of this combined to create an impression of a culture, that to me seems focused on celebrating the good things in life. That is definitely a country I would love to visit, and I imagine everyone at the event left feeling the same.
~ By Allie Williams, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia. Allie explores her passion for food, travel, and learning about different cultures though her internship with Go Eat Give.