West Indian Day Parade
I've said it once and I'll say it again. West Indian people know how to party! Today was the West Indian Day Parade on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn and boy, was it a party.
Alex and I went once two years ago, but we did it all wrong. We stayed very briefly and made a quick exit without submerging ourselves in the culture. This time, we witnessed a pretty crazy, diverse, hyperactive, loud, delicious celebration of pan-Caribbean culture. We walked up Eastern Parkway, peeking meekly at the local vendors - most likely hailing from a Caribbean country themselves and out to celebrate their culture and share their food with the world - grilling and frying food right on the street. The air was quickly filling up with thick smoke, as well as delicious, tantalizing aromas of fried fish, grilled meats, and jerk spices. We were surrounded by these swirling smells all afternoon.
First, pre-parade, Alex had a dish of sweet plantains from a vendor frying them up in a giant vat of oil on the spot. The sweet plantains had a dark brown, sugary crust. The mushy yellow insides were soft and naturally sweet. They were scorchingly hot, but amazing. I also had a chicken patty (they ran out of beef!!), which was a nice curry chicken mixture inside a flaky, not-too-greasy crust. Yum!
Then, we hunkered down along the parade route to find a decent place to watch the thousands of marchers pass by. You feel a really great swell of pride when you watch this kind of parade. Flags of not one but many countries are waved, tied around foreheads, and even worn as clothing. When the emcees shout to his homies from Jamaica/Trinidad/Guyana/St. Lucia/etc., whole sections of people cheer and holler. The marchers are decked out in the most colorful, elaborate costumes and dance enthusiastically at the blaring music. I felt my clothing shaking in the vibrations of the enormous speakers. There was a boa constrictor. There
probably definitely was marijuana and alcohol flowing. There might have been gang activity. Luckily, there was a huge police presence too, so it was a good time to let loose and enjoy a very Brooklyn thing.
After, we tried mac & cheese with jerk pork. It was alright: the pork was a bit tough and bony, but the flavor was quite good. I also had a few cod fritters, which were greasy and probably going to kill me, but it was a unique flavor: kind of sour, kind of spicy, a bit of fishiness in the aftertaste.
The parade probably wrecked my eardrums for life and made my clothes and hair smell perpetually of barbecue, but we absolutely had a good time.