Since the dawn of time us humans have had to go out in search for food: to hunt it, forage for it, or grow it. These days a visit to the supermarket is the modern equivalent. Armed with plastic and brandishing trolleys we roam stealthily down the aisles… but that’s another story. In the Dominican Republic we have gone a step further – here it’s the food that comes to you: the colmado delivery bikes will deliver your shopping as you sit in the comfort of your home. In a slightly more fraught environment, food comes knocking at your car window at the city’s busiest intersections.
On the serious side, it is a poignant reminder of the state of poverty and underemployment that people here live in, that compels so many of them to ply their wares under the blazing sun and amidst the choking fumes of the city’s traffic.
I regularly drive up and down Av. Lincoln. On a typical day you can buy avocadoes and mangoes (in season), watercress that looks remarkably perky despite the midday sun, bananas, radishes, jagua (with a sample sliced off so you can assess the quality), and even a punnet of delicious strawberries from the mountains of Jarabacoa – as I did just yesterday at the lights on Lincoln esquina 27. The rates are above market prices, but you’re paying for the ultimate convenience. In my case also because a foreigner can be spotted a mile off.
Other typical traffic-light foods are small plastic bags of cashew nuts, ideal for someone held up in a traffic jam with a pre-prandial rumbling tummy. See Lincoln esq Kennedy, Malecon esq Maximo Gomez. Sweets and gum are also common (See 27 esq Maximo Gomez), as are ice-cold bottles or bags of water. Who has not recently done a double-take at the sight of the giant plastic penguins that appeared on the streets of the capital in recent months? Like some sort of cheerful alien invasion or – as I thought – proof that someone had spiked my coffee with a hallucinogen. Turns out – to my relief – that they are carts for selling popsicles.
Allow me to adapt an old joke to suit my circumstances:
- Q: What’s the definition of a split second in the Dominican Republic?
- A: The period of time that elapses between the traffic light turning green and the sounding of the first horn.
This certainly adds to the fun. You may, as a conscientious model citizen, base your purchasing decisions on the status of the traffic lights, especially if you know the sequences and timings really well, or you may prefer to live dangerously and execute your transaction just before your light turns green. If you are really reckless you can lengthen the process with a spot of haggling and/or attempt to pay the vendor with a large note.
By this time the light will be changing back to red again and the people in the cars behind will invariably wish you, your ancestors and descendants a multitude of delights.
This is a very delicious option for a side dish, and although not the most appropriate salad if you are watching your weight, at least the fat in it comes from the healthiest sources.
- 2 large avocados (or 3 small ones)
- 2 tablespoons of lime juice
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 1 small red pepper cut into small cubes (optional)
- 1/2 small red onions cut into strips (optional)
- Mix the lime juice and oil. Marinate the onion and pepper in this mix for about an hour.
- Peel and slice (or dice) the avocados and mix with the lime juice, onions and pepper.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.