Designer Island Eats with Architect, Robert Thompson

Published on: Oct 26 2013 by Designer Island

“It’s best to get to the market early. If you come later than 5am, I am leaving you”. He meant it too, so it’s still dark when we set out.
Today, distance isn’t the issue, time is; the freshest produce tends to go early.

“You both look like tourists,” he laughs. With the fingers of dawn just tentatively touching the early morning sky everything is washed
in shades of blue. If we did not keep our eyes on him, we’d lose him easily.

The market bustles at 5:15am like it runs on a different time schedule. Old beat up trucks are laden with green figs, ripe plantains and the most beautiful deep orange-colored pumpkin we’ve ever seen. When you’re accustomed to shopping at Hi Lo, the central market feels like another world.

He takes us to his regulars selling sweet potatoes, yellow plantains, green figs, fat cucumbers, green striped watermelons and fragrant bunches of chives, chadon beni and thyme. Then there are the specialties – purple mangosteen, prickly red rambutan and green-brown
sugar apples.

We enter a large, open building from which wafts the unmistakable smells of curry and fresh fish; an odd combination but we’ve grown accustomed to the complex mixture of scents that would match nowhere else but at the market. The woman cleaning huge,
brilliantly colouredred fish calls it North Coast snapper, caught “Right up de road, North Coast side”. She then mutters under her breath
in the wake of a customer who tries to drive a little too hard a bargain for her fish: “Steups. I could come and bargain with him
when I come to buy curtains in his place?
Why he telling me ‘bout the price ah my fish?”

Her face changes as she turns her smile on us once more and tells us to come back for the fish while she scales, cleans and wraps it for us,“
$30 for the whole thing! Can’t get that in Hi Lo!”  We laugh. True.

Baskets laden and wallets still relatively full, we head out to a sky now fully lit by the bright morning. We head to the house and production begins. Nothing, however, starts without the perfect playlist. It’s still early and the sounds of Pink Floyd, Stephen Marley, K’naan and James Blake float through the house.

“What are you cooking for us today?”

“I don’t know” he replies “We’ll know when it done.”

He starts peeling the sweet potatoes, tania, pumpkin and the green figs. Food prep becomes a communal exercise with two Trinis,
a Viennese girl named Musa and one Jamaican ordering us around.

“Cut up that seasoning and the veggies. Knives in the drawer”.

Soon, the kitchen is filled with the unmistakable smells of thyme, chives, garlic and onion, staples of any West Indian kitchen and the bright red tomatoes, red and green sweet peppers, cabbage and carrots and broad beans fill the room with colour. The blender whirs, combining watermelon, ginger and mangosteen and the sound mixes with laughter and the music of Nicholas Jaar. Musa disappears into her hammock
in the next room, the smoke from her cigarette trailing behind her.

Next the pumpkin, green fig and ground provisions go into the pot and the red fish is seasoned.

“What you doing with the cucumber?”

“More juice” he replies, “With some ginger and honey.” Nice.

Musa peeks out briefly from her hammock, where she’s been ensconced with her Kindle, to check on our progress.

“When’s lunch?” she asks


Then he starts to deal with the vegetables. He finishes cutting them up and and put them to steam with seasoning not used for the fish
in the wok. The red snapper sizzles in the frying pan, coated with ground oats, instead of flour, egg, salt, black pepper and the fragrant herbs.

As the sun rises higher in the sky and the sounds of the day become more noticeable, it’s time to work on dessert: brownies baked with maraschino cherries, oats, granola and rum. When they’re done they have a rich, crumbly texture, the chocolate further sweetened
by the cherries and the rum.

We set the table and sit on the deck to a meal of sweet potatoes, tania, green figs and pumpkin with battered fried snapper and steamed veggies on the side. There are two kinds of juice — cucumber ginger and watermelon mangosteen with a shot of white rum — and it is all topped off with the best brownies this side of heaven.

“Good job!”

“I know” he smiles.

It’s Saturday on the island.


Architect, Robert Thompson

If you are interested in the music mentioned, check out the playlist on mixcloud here.

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Designer Island Eats with Architect, Robert Thompson

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7 Comments to “Designer Island Eats with Architect, Robert Thompson”

  1. David Cuthbert says:

    Excellent post…. but talk more about the pictures please. I especially love the one with drawings on the wall

    • Designer Island says:

      Hi David, thanks for reading the post and commenting! We love comments!
      Robert had a lot of really interesting things on his walls. From the wall covered in what I assumed was architectural designs of work in progress to several posters and small graphic art pieces. While the intention was not to showcase his space it was difficult to resist not taking one or two to allow the viewer to feel a little bit more apart of our meal and share with us.

      I’m going to have to harass him to share at least the name of the artist who did the posters on the wall because they are really interesting and beautiful and made up part of why he was in interesting person to do this piece with. When I get the name of the artist I will let you know!

      Thanks again for saying ‘hello’!

    • Designer Island says:

      The posters on the wall are Jacques Tati movie posters! :)

  2. QD says:

    yaaaaaaw!! nice entry. love the pics. a market run is always entertaining. an yeah, early is de key.

  3. blouson cuir belstaff says:

    Hey there! I’ve been reading your site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you
    a shout out from Atascocita Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the
    great job!

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