Thursday, November 22, 2007

WE FOOD - Foreign Pattie

by Natasha Samuels

A Jamaican patty or pattie is a beef filled turnover that contains various fillings and spices baked inside a flaky shell.

As its name suggests, it is commonly found in Jamaica where it is a popular snack food among skoolaz and adults. It is also eaten in other areas of the Caribbean and is growing in popularity in the West Indian enclaves of North America.

However, not all patties are created equal. This is especially true for these foreign made patty clones which look like the real thing, but tastes far from it.

Wray Williams, a Jamaican ex-patriot living in Scarborough, Canada agrees. “The patties here are horrible,” he said. You know what good food tastes like, he said and these foreign made turnovers just nuh mek it.

Recently, after spending days sampling the Cuban dishes on Florida’s South Beach art deco community, I was more than ready for anything Jamaican.

Images of oxtail and stew peas with pigs tail danced through my head as the Tri-Rail commuter train winded its way northbound from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale. It was mid-day and I knew a patty, with co-co bread and a cream soda would be just the thing that would hold me over until my evening meal.

At the Ft. Lauderdale stop, I piled my rolling suitcase and knapsack onto the back seat of the little SUV. I hopped into the front seat and announced that I was starving.

We turned into a Plaza in Lauderhill, or little Jamaica as they call it, and my eyes glazed over when I saw the line of people in front of the bakery waiting to get inside. I thought for sure with a line like that the patties must really be good.

I stretched my neck around the line to get a glimpse of the menu that awaited me. The menu looked slim, but there was no mistaking the little orange mounds that laid in waiting behind the heated glass encased displays.

My stomach roared in anticipation and I did a little jiggy dance, licked my lips and wondered which one of the established patty franchises these patties would emulate.
Would it taste like Jukie Chin’s, Juici Patties which as far as I was concerned was the best patties that I had ever tasted? Pity that no retail stores are present in Canada or the States, even with the presence of their North American based manufacturing plant in Ontario. Jamaicans wanting a taste of Juici beef have to pick up a frozen package from their local supermarket chains or convenience stores and reheat it at home.

Would it taste anything at all like the Hawthorne’s Golden Krust, whose franchisor unleashed the patty formula and freed Jamaicans in the States from foreign patties?

Would it taste like Randy’s or Allen’s who some people in Toronto swear are the best patties north of the border?

Surely in a community called little Jamaica the patties would be extraordinary. I was imagining that I would be boasting for days of the lightness of the crust and the savory meat whose flavored seasonings would dance across my tongue.

We inched our way towards the counter where I was finally able to order one patty, hot, not mild and of course the co-co bread and cream soda.

After paying, I skipped to the SUV with a smile on my face that was broader than a pig in…well you know. I laid the patty down on the co-co bread, took my first bite and stopped in mid chew. I squeezed the meat into the bag and ate the crust alone. Foreign patty!

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