*I’ve been silent for the past month or so – apologies..but I’ve recently decided that I will be leaving Trinidad in 3 weeks in pursuit of another adventure..so instead of closing this blog one time, I’ve decided to leave with a bang..so here I go!
After a meeting in POS the other day, my colleagues took me on a stroll through the newly revitalized International Waterfront Center. “Aimed at reviving and and transforming POS, the project is part of the overall Vision 2020 – a government policy attempting to take Trinidad and Tobago to developed country status by 2020.” source
According to the The Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (UDECOTT), “The Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre is testament to the burgeoning development of our twin-island nation. With only two new major developments constructed in downtown Port of Spain in the past 10 years, the International Waterfront Centre will be the brand new hallmark of an ever-evolving Port of Spain – a city already established as a significant regional centre for trade, commerce and industry.”
I had been to the International Waterfront Center only one time previously, when I went to visit some friends at the Hyatt Hotel..but this was my first time walking around the development – which I must say is very impressive – and visiting the Breakfast Shed; where my colleagues wanted to take me for a post-meeting true Creole food lunch. Talk about food coma! I was totally useless after lunch. (For those of you who don’t know, ‘Creole Food’ is Trinidad’s local cuisine, which (as my colleagues tell me) was brought over by Trinidad’s African population – but has since been influenced by French, Spanish, and English culinary tastes as well).
My first question was, “Why do they call it the Breafastshed if they serve lunch?”
No one could answer..(apparently they do serve both breakfast and lunch,,but it is more widely known as a lunch spot.) But what they did tell me was that the Breakfast Shed has been around for donkey years, and has only recently moved to this location when the Waterfront area was being ‘revitalized’..previously the Breakfast Shed was a bit closer to the port (more to the west) and was really reserved for port workers and more ‘everyday’ people (whatever that means).
But since its move into a..well, nicer area – in close proximity to the prime real-estate that now makes up the International Waterfront..prices have gone up, and you will find more ‘white collar working class’ people enjoying local Creole food. According to an article in Maco Magazine on the Breakfast Shed’s makeover, “The grub and grime that gave the place “street cred’’ was replaced by a clean, spacious open-air food court. That changed the ambience a lot, to put it nicely. Now all the vendors have neatly partitioned cubicles with Formica counters and freezers. You can barely see them behind the steamed-up glass cases where the food is kept warm. The place is still crammed at lunch time, but now you have guests from the Hyatt, bankers, office workers from the government ministries in the International Financial Centre tower, construction workers, tourists, housewives and secretaries, even children, sitting at the wooden benches.”
The first “Breakfast Shed” was founded by a Trinidadian social worker and the first female member of the Legislative Council of T&T, Audrey Layne Jeffers (February 12, 1968 – June 24, 1968).
“Jeffers was moved from an an early age by the sufferings of the poor and dispossessed. In 1926, Jeffers established the Coterie of Social Workers which provided free lunches to poor school children. The first “Breakfast Shed” was established in Port of Spain in 1926. Others were established in Barataria, San Fernando, Siparia, and Tobago.” source
According to blogger Trinimuse, “The first venue for this venture was constructed at Warner Street, New Town, a short distance away from the Jeffers’ home. For some reason the building was called a ‘breakfast shed’ despite the fact that it was to provide lunch. This ‘breakfast shed’ immediately became popular with the school children of the surrounding New Town and Woodbrook districts. Not long afterwards came the main Breakfast Centre on Edward Street which supplied other venues. Nevertheless, it became a popular sport for the children of the city who flocked there for perhaps their major meal of the day. In this time of abject poverty, when many of the nation’s school children went without the benefit of a mid-day meal, the school kids of Port of Spain were not so deprived. Our internationally known Breakfast Shed is derived from or commemorates these beginnings.”
Now isn’t that nice? To know that you are eating at a place that was founded with such a noble mission, and has since turned into somewhat of a local institution? Well, at least I think so.. What’s just as notable is the fact that the women working there are the direct descendants of the women who worked at the Breakfast Sheds of long ago.
The piece of information that I’m missing here is how the Breakfast Shed went from being a place that fed impoverished school children, to a place where port workers and ‘common folk’ came to eat lunch. I suppose when Breakfast Sheds started to spring up in different locations, their purposes/clientele changed as well.. Does anyone have another explanation?
It wasn’t until I read an article in MACO Magazine that I learned that during the reconstruction of the International Waterfront Center, the Breakfast Shed had also undergone a rebranding, and was now “Femmes du Chalet.” (seriously? ha!) Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like the new name has caught on, as everyone still refers to by its original name.
I think that whoever was in charge of the Breakfast Shed’s ‘rebranding’ should’ve focused on preserving the venue’s historical/cultural significance instead of trying change its whole identity..and while they were at it, they should’ve also paid tribute to its founder – Audrey Jeffers. Just a thought..! When I went back to my colleagues and told them what I had found, they were all surprised to learn that the Breakfast Shed was actually founded to provide meals to needy school children – it’s a shame that even locals don’t know about the Breakfast Shed’s humble beginnings,,much less ‘foreigners’ like me. Knowing the history behind this venue, makes eating there that much more..well, special.
Anyway, if you go..plan on spending about $60TT for a meal,, MACO Magazine suggests $40..but whenever I go, I spend an average of $60-$70 including a drink – maybe i just have expensive taste? You will find that the vendors serve relatively similar dishes..the trick is to take a walk around and find the mounds of food that are most appealing to you! That’s what I do! (The Breakfast Shed is located off of Wrightson Road and adjacent to the gov’t complex in the International Waterfront Center).
I’ll end this post with a youtube video I found of an American travel journalist who visited the Breakfast Shed. Check it out! It’s so strange hearing an American talking about callaloo and pelau. haha..