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Dem Live A Foreign Vol.8 - Gentrified Jerk Sauce

Updated: May 21

Like many reading this, I attended this year's Nottinghill carnival, however unlike most my day started around 4:30 am as I'd told my friend Jo Alexander, and the historian who introduced me to the concept of J'ouvert that I'd join them on the streets of Notting Hill at first light.

Now not wanting my daughter to feel left out, when my alarm went off at 4:30 am with energy I marched into her room, telling her to lose the sleep from her eyes and arise as we have a mission to accomplish. (If looks could kill! )

We arrived on the streets of West London around 6:45 am. While waiting for Jo who had me slow pacing around like a stood-up date! I took in the scene of early morning Jouvert and the few boiler suit wearers, flag holders and solo Jab Jab who were making their way to enjoy the morning celebration and remembrance in Jouvert.

Finally managing to coordinate with Jo, we made it to Ladbroke grove station where we were greeted by streams of colourful paint on the streets, on clothes and definitely on faces. I quickly took my daughter to the shop and wrapped a blue bag around her hair. She was even less impressed with me.

Anyhow in the mix of things and Jouvert in full swing, I spent the next two to three hours like Neo dodging merciless paint throwers, who aimed at me as they thought I was too clean. But like most things in life, it's always those closest to you who hurt you the most, as the streams of colourful paint that managed to get on to me were from no other than my daughter!

What I will say, without a doubt, was this was the most fun at carnival I'd had in years. What made this even more impactful for me was the added layer of Jo telling me some of the deeper meanings behind the things we saw at Jouvert, such as a man carrying a baby doll and another carrying a coffin.

Now as Jouvert wrapped up and Sunday Mas started, I planned to go home freshen up and come back. However, in the end we decided to stay out, following the no-sleep carnival ritual many like Jo religiously adhere to!

Now after spending much time trying to pick up something and run my daughter looked at me saying she was hungry. I encouraged her to realise that it's just water that she needs, however she wasn't too receptive to my theory. So like the protector in Whitney Houston's Bodyguard, I acted as a barrier to the large crowds that filled the streets of Ladbroke Grove.

After much battling and giving deathly cold looks I found my way to a food vendor selling jerk chicken and rice and peas. Now I checked the prices around and they all looked monstrous. I thought the food vendor I ended up at looked reasonable. I thought wrong! Ordering Jerk Chicken, rice and peas with a few plantin cuts and coleslaw, the vendor looked me in my face and told me £14. Pride and my daughter's hunger made me pay, though I did tell the lady to add more rice and peas as they were trying to be shy with the food.

Weeks later, thinking back to my carnival food experience a thought came to me is Jerk sauce gentrified. Now with a doubt the chicken from the vendor was swimming in a jerk sauce typical of what you find in most Caribbean restaurants nowadays. But when I thought about it I remembered this was not the same jerk sauce I grew up on as a child. When my mum use to jerk chicken I never remembered it being sweet. I remember it being very hot and very spicy, something definitely not for the weak-hearted!

So I have an open question to ask, is it just me or has the taste of jerk seasoning really changed to become something sweeter and maybe more palatable for all? Let me know your thoughts on this as I'm truly intrigued.

David Anglin

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