Last Sunday we had dinner in one of the best restaurants in the town of Jean Rabel, or ‘Resto’ as it is simply called in Kreyol. The owner, Mr. Chachou is friendly and welcoming and offers typical Haitian food, fried chicken, fried banan (plantain), a beetroot based salad, pikales, fried potatoes and a mountain of rice.
The occasion was that we had a team of 3 Spanish dentists staying with us this week offering dental work to the local people at a fraction of the regular price.
I wondered what our Spanish visitors made of this ‘elite’ restaurant, where the only seating space is outside, luckily well shaded by a thatch roof, but where flies and other insects have a field day on the tables even while you await your food.
For me, I am used to that now, having frequented the same restaurant a number of times with Sr. Rose and Sr. Naza, but on my first visit I was a bit shocked that the proprietor simply presented our order on top of or beside our friendly ‘animals’ as Sr. Naza calls the array of insects that frequent tables on a regular basis.
The food is good if you like that kind of thing, but I doubt its very good for one’s health, as nearly the entire meal is fried in oil, and not necessarily good quality oil, I’d imagine.
But once you get over these nuisances, it’s quite pleasant to dine out, when you are shaded from the hot sun.
On Sunday, business was brisk for Mr. Chachou as the town was busy with people out in good numbers to listen to Dr. Maryse Narcisse, one of the candidates for the upcoming and long-awaited election in Haiti, who had visited our town on her election campaign representing the Fanmi Lavalas political party.
There are a few other ‘Restos’ in the town, but they are mostly small, dingy, dark places that lack atmosphere or a welcoming smile. They are often simply small huts where food is cooked ‘to go’ for locals looking for something convenient.
When you decide to dine out in Jean Rabel, you must place your order the day beforehand, or at least a number of hours prior to dining. This gives the restaurant owner time to purchase the necessary ingredients for your meal. It is very unlikely that you would receive good service or a choice of food if you called in ‘on spec’. And there is nowhere in the town to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea or even a drink, nowhere that I have found yet, at any rate.
Local people simply haven’t money for such luxuries, I suppose; they hardly have enough water to drink never mind waste money on buying unnecessary and lavish treats like cups of coffee or tea!