Bourdain’s Field Notes
You don’t go to Trinidad for the beaches. It ain’t no tropical paradise. That would be its sister island, Tobago.
You go to Trinidad to do business. Or to “lime,” which means hang out, drink, and eat (well). Or to “wine,” which means grind or be ground upon in a dance situation by someone who certainly appears to want to have sex with you but probably doesn’t. I’m good at the former. The latter—not so much.
Trinidad prides itself on its multicultural, multiethnic makeup: its mix of African, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and European blood. If one judges solely by the food, it is a glorious stew indeed. Trinidad has arguably the best food in the Caribbean—a direct reflection of that mix of influences. But is it the harmonious wonderland I was repeatedly told it was?
I don’t know.
Some shows end for me with a lingering sense of dissatisfaction, a feeling that I didn’t understand enough, didn’t ask the right questions, just didn’t do as good a job as I perhaps could have. Near the end of filming, I had dinner with someone who’d worked on the local crew, a Trinidadian woman of mixed race with a very different point of view and a very different story than the one I’d been hearing on camera.
There is always the danger of finding oneself in a warm, friendly bubble when making a show in a place you’ve never been. Without exception, everyone I met in Trinidad and Tobago was warm, friendly, kind—and very proud of the place where they live. But the crime stats and the relatively large number of disaffected young people who’ve gone to fight alongside ISIS in the Middle East are indicators that someone is not being taken care of—that some problems are not being addressed—and that there is another Trinidad outside the view of our cameras.
So approach with care—and a healthy degree of skepticism.
Life is complicated.
Trinidad is complicated.