I say Carnival and you think feathers and bikinis, right? WRONG! Welcome to St. Maarten’s carnival, where the feathers and bikinis take backstage to the music, parties and the food. Oh. My. Goodness. The food!
Here on St. Maarten we have something called the Carnival Village or like the locals simply call it “The Village“, an enclosed area where festivities are held year round but most importantly the home of carnival in the month of April.
Carnival here starts just after Easter Weekend and people gear up for it from January, right after new year’s. Yes, people here are quite die hard about Carnival, some more than others.
The village is like I said the heart of St. Maarten’s carnival, it is where all the carnival festivities are held, like concerts, performances and the carnival queen and calypso competitions. The inside of the village is also lined up with food and drink booths that are rented to locals who then cook up a storm for the 3 weeks or so of carnival and sell it to the public. Now, this is the part I am interested in.
I’m a Caribbean woman that does not particularly like carnival. This gets me strange stares at times from my fellow island people, like I’m from outer space. While my friends live and breathe everything carnival related and actually plan a year in advance for the next carnival season, I usually plan a trip off island so I’m not here for all the madness. There is however one big aspect of St. Maarten carnival that I truly enjoy and that is the village, or more specifically village food.
Carnival is a time for excess, excess partying, excess wining (or twerking like it’s known outside of the Caribbean), excess drinking and definitely a lot of excess eating. Diet be gone!
In the village you can find different booths, all selling different food and drinks. Crab back, satés, rice and peas, johnny-cake, grilled ribs and chicken, and even the more exotic like alligator skewers from Suriname, welks soup from St. Maarten, doubles from Trinidad or tutu, a dish from my native Curaçao.
The village can be overwhelming for first time visitors. For all of you village newbies here are a few suggestions:
- Go for lunch. Lunch is less crowded since all the performances and concerts happen at night.
- Take your time. The key is to take your time and don’t dive into the first booth you see. You’ll be greeted upon entering the village with all sorts of smells in the air and the sight of barbecue grills smoking, undoubtedly containing something delicious inside.
- Reconnaissance. Walk around first, absorb the environment, take in the smells and look at the different menus before deciding where to eat first.
- Make note of the booth numbers that have something which grabbed your fancy so that you can find it back later.
- Go early. Most booths will have their menus ready by midday. Go early so you can get first dibs. The more popular menu items tend to sell out.
- Pace yourself with the drinks. There will be so many different drinks to choose from, one more lethal than the next. Drink one of the many concoctions offered, followed by a bottle of water before delving into the next great cocktail.
As a recently converted vegetarian, at times pescatarian the village is a place of pure temptation and the only place that makes me sometimes regret my recent conversion. But vegetarians do not let this dissuade you from enjoying the village. There are some booths offering vegetarian food items, however limited and there is even a vegetarian booth nowadays. Besides, if there is nothing vegetarian to capture your fancy you can always go to the village just to drink, excessively.