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Weeks of craving for the savoury taste of doubles, aloo pies and pholourie did not result in a mad rush as the sale of T&T’s popular street foods resumed yesterday.But many vendors told Guardian Media they also did not cook their usual amount of the Indo-Trinidadian delicacies, as they predicted a hasher market brought on by COVID-19.
More than six weeks had passed before vendors were allowed to return to activity yesterday as Government initiated phase one of the COVID-19 reopening plan.
Dubbed the doubles capital of T&T, business at Debe Doubles was slow but steady, a contrast to the usual crowds and traffic congestion along the SS Erin Road. Only two of the five outlets were open.
At D’ Green Shed, Rosemary Hassanali said people were trickling in after they opened at 6 am. Hassanali said with less than 36 hours to prepare after Prime Minister Dr Rowley announced the lifting of restrictions against food outlets, Mother’s Day was a rush.“It was a late announcement and we just had to leave and run to the grocery to get food like channa. Yesterday, we got bandania and garlic in the market. For the whole day yesterday I was busy,” Hassanali said.But they were happy to reopen, especially the workers who spent weeks with little income coming in. Although there was no revenue for the business, Hassanali said she did not fuss as she understood the shutdown was for the country’s safety.Sandra Ramrattan, the cook at Krishna’s Food Centre, also found sales slow and surmised people did not have much money. Ramrattan said getting ready to reopen was difficult, as they had outstanding bills and no income over the last month.“We are trying to make up some income. We are trying to cope with it. The past weeks were hard, so I feel happy and grateful today because of income coming in,” Ramrattan said. There were signs and instructions for customers to join lines and physically distance themselves from each other yesterday. Hassanali said there was always a sink for customers to wash their hands and all workers wore masks. While there were reports of food inflation, Hassanli and Ramrattan did not notice any increase in the cost in the items they use. As such, they do not plan to increase their prices.While some customers just wanted to sink their teeth into the steaming meals, they were urged to take it away. And with a double or aloo pie tasting best while hot, some took it to their vehicles and ate before leaving. “I was really longing for hot aloo pie on the spot but it was only when I reached here that I realised I could not do that. I am going to my car and eat,” Wasym Steward said.For Sharmilla Singh, it was five weeks since her craving for a “doubles with slight” began. “This feels real good,” Singh said as she smiled and walked off with her treat.Along the East-West corridor it was the same.
“Nobody eh clustering, normal thing. I was expecting that it wouldn’t be so busy from now. A lot of people now catching a grip on things and then they trying to be safe so it will take some time,” said Khyam Ali, a vendor on Cipriani Boulevard
Norman Sammy, of George and Son doubles on Carlos Street, said they asked customers to keep a safe distance in the line.
“But you know Trinis, they like to do what they want, how they want, when they want, but we ask them to keep a space in the line. We have the water with the soap to wash hands. Now we eh encouraging no eating on the spot, we encouraging everybody to put they order, take away to avoid everybody bunching up here.”
A similar approach was taken at Dass Doubles on El Socorro Road, San Juan, with patrons only allowed to approach the vendor after their order was ready. This prompted one customer in the line to even joke that after waiting six weeks, he had to wait even longer to get his doubles.
Despite reports that there might be a consideration to raise the price of doubles, all vendors Guardian Media visited yesterday kept their prices at $5.