Trini Driving and the Pursuit of Old-Fashioned Oats

A confluence of unforeseen events conspired to bring me a day off from work today and, instead of being a lazy layabout like I thought I would be, I woke up full of energy and with a clear mission:  I was going to find some old-fashioned oats.

Now, let me just give a bit of context.  Like so many others out there, I’d prefer my oats not to have the texture of rubber cement, so I’m not a fan of quick oats.  You can pretty much turn a rock over and find quick or instant oats here in Trinidad.  Conversely, you can pretty much search every supermarket on the island in two months (like I have) and not find any old-fashioned oats.  I had to give up my hope of being rained on by plentiful thick oats.  I had to suck it up and take the drive through Port of Spain to West Moorings and, at the risk of doing like the typical rich expat housewives, go to West Mall’s gourmet shop Peppercorns for supplies.  Otherwise I’d be eating soft cement for the next couple of weeks.

So I fortified myself with cornmeal pancakes–with coconut, which I couldn’t taste, boo–topped with bananas (potassium is for patience):

Gulped down my coffee and some orange juice, and headed west, just me and my ride.

Now, driving in Trinidad is a bit like an old-school Nintendo race game.  You have only a certain amount of buttons to press and the button combinations don’t cover all the movies you need to keep yourself from crashing.  I actually kinda like the whole chaos and lawlessness of it, and take a certain pride in knowing that I can get behind the wheel and get from point A to B without landing in a rain gutter or in a tearful panic attack on the side of the road.  I’ve been told that driving in Africa is worse, and that driving in the Indian subcontinent is worse, but that otherwise this might be where bad drivers come to be reincarnated and unleashed on the roads.

There’s a whole set of driving practices that you need to accept if you’re going to drive here–practices that will get you pulled over and ticketed in many places of the world, mind you.  Today I encountered and did most of them, including:

  • Hand signals:  not the standard North American or European variety.  Oh no.  You make circles from your elbow and pat the air up and down and it’s all supposed to mean something. My default one is sticking my arm straight out of the car–it means stop/don’t pass me/I’m about to cut you off, so it covers all the bases I need.
  • Cutting drivers off: it’s cut off or be cut off.  No one honks their horn because really, if there’s ten feet between you and the car in front of you, you’re just asking to be cut off.
  • Speeding around trucks with badly-secured items:  I would rather risk an itty-bitty car scrape than have 500 unsecured metal party chairs flatten me and my Smurf mobile.  You bet I’ll go 80 mph on a 45 mph road to avoid that.
  • The aforementioned driving at 80 mph:  unless you want the car behind you to simulate some dirty Carnival wining upon your car’s bumper, you best get moving.  Once you realize that you have exactly half a foot between your car and the car in the next lane, zipping along at that speed isn’t so bad, is it?
  • Playing chicken with H-cars and maxi taxis:  H-cars have H in the license plate and act like taxis.  Maxi taxis are route taxis, big and white with colored stripes according to their route.  Both types of cars are driven by lunatics who would think nothing of driving against traffic on the highway or riding over your car to pick up or drop off a fare.  You must have balls with them and show them no fear–that’s the only way to put it and the only way to get anywhere around here.
  • Traffic grinding to a full stop because some idiot couldn’t pay the intersection-entrepreneur rastas fast enough for their peanuts:  happens all the time.  I pity the poor rastas who risk life and limb by selling at the highway stop signs–and love their dress sense of shirts with ties and wing-tip shoes.

So I did my Trini driving thing, that very special thing that makes my mother balk at handing over the car keys when I ask for them, and made good time to West Mall, which can be 20 minutes away on a good day or an hour and a half away on a usual day.  I clocked forty five minutes, which wasn’t bad for getting caught in a stanky truck party on Wrightson Road (trucks load, unload, dump junk, and generally make traffic impossible on that road during the day).

What I won’t do for my oatmeal…

After a speed visit to the supermarket (why hello, West Hi-Lo, so nice to meet you and your reasonably-priced local mushrooms!), the wine shop, two sport shops, a homegoods store, and the aforementioned gourmet food shop, I came home with goodies such as:

This brash girl loves herself some tempranillo, even if it's oddly-named for its origin country

Yellow curry makes me think of Montreal days, sigh--Thai three times a week

Mozzarella pearls for the Husband

The coffee of my people--so what if it's distributed out of NYC?

See? It's made to the Latin taste, not that I fall for demographics marketing or anything

As long as there are tortilla chips in the house, food journaling needs to happen

Please complete: "I know I'm a swimmer because....": I wore out my last swim cap! It's purple, like my hair when I was fifteen

Wait a second.  Where is the oatmeal, the old-fashioned oatmeal that Peppercorns has always had, every single time I’ve been in the overpriced shop?  Nowhere to be found, my peeps.  I asked.  I was told  “It doh have, just de quick tings”  (cashier points to mocking tower of quick oats).  I sighed.  I was surprised at not being too surprised.

Oh well.  I can see turtles any old day I want and I eat mangoes from my tree half the year round.  What’s a bit of oatmeal deprivation, anyway? Guess who will be eating more oat pancakes and omelettes in the coming weeks…  unless some poor kind soul decides to send me a Quaker care package.

So, rather than pull my hair out in despair, I’ll tell you about other goings-on of the day.

I wore clothes despite the boiling heat:

Same outfit as from this pic from one month ago--jeans Old Navy, shoes Target, shirt a hand-me-up from Little A

I attempted to put running shoes on over my badly-scraped toe (turtle-watching collateral damage) and it was a no-go.  Bleeding toe trumps a run every time.  Here’s to hoping the toe is healed tomorrow.

Oh, and I had a killer ham omelette with salad for lunch:

And I finally got around to making Moosewood New Classics’ Dixie Burgers for dinner:

A small army of burgers

A small bundle of goodness--burger, barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, whole wheat roll

These babies were nutritional superstars with their black-eyed peas, sweet potato, onion, pepper, garlic, spinach, and bevvy of spices (including allspice and thyme).  They will most definitely be making regular appearances on the blog (and my dinners).

I am also proud to announce that I worked the afternoon away with a sinkful of dirty dishes in plain view.  I did not wash them the second I saw them.  I wasn’t even tempted to do so until I was making dinner.  I think I’m going to be REALLY good at this work-from-home biznitch…

3 Responses

  1. Those burgers look awesome — I love my Moosewood cookbook! 😀 And those pancakes — yum!

  2. I love reading about your life in Trinidad! Your burgers look really yummy.

  3. […] The Bulk Shopping Excursion Posted on May 5, 2010 by Laura Georgina Remember when I went on a wild goose chase for real oatmeal last month?  Today, I went on another pilgrimage, braving traffic and rastas selling all manner of cheap […]

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