Monday, July 14, 2008

Chef Creole Trumps Carvel Ice Cream

Somebody came up with the idea of having all of the businesses and art galleries and restaurants along West Dixie Highway in North Miami having a day of celebration for no particular good reason at all beyond just being there and inviting the community to come join them, eat some good food, explore the shops, and enjoy themselves!

Chef Creole set up this huge barbeque grill in the parking lot and I was drawn there by the smell drifting down the street. I've always been a sucker for barbeque and it wasn't disapointing in the least, hot and peppery as only the Haitans can make it.

The building itself dates from the late 1950's when it opened as a Carvel Ice Cream shop. Both the Jr. and Sr. high schools were located within a couple of blocks and business was great. By the 1980's the area had started to atract more blacks, mostly Haitians. Haitians had no tradition of eating ice cream, and blacks in general avoid milk products as adults. Their systems produce no lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, the type of sugar found in milk. Within a few years Carvel closed and was replaced by Chef Creole.

It's strange how people from various ethnic groups can live on the same block and never get to taste the wide variety of foods that their neighbors cook and enjoy. This was a day when we all had the chance to try those tastes of other folks' cooking. Some people were brave enough to try goat for the first time while others got to eat things cooked differently than they were used to. New spices greeted their tongues. Perhaps meats stewed rather than roasted. And in some cases we got to really meet our neighbors on a deeper level than just a friendly wave from across the street.

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