Papita, gou lari a

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Heat, school, salt, excitement…such are the memories that come to mind as I look at the above pictured snack that we enjoyed after school when we were kids.

A few weeks back, I was happy to catch sight of a street vendor carrying his basket filled with these goodies for I hadn’t seen one in a while, especially since we now buy these at the grocery store. Right here and there, I went back in time and saw myself in my school uniform licking a plastic bag to savor the last crumbs mixed with salt.

Back then, I thoroughly enjoyed the remnants of these papita bags that we used to buy at the school’s main entrance where street vendors set up their baskets every day when school was out.

I can still picture us, my classmates and I, filled with excitement as we reached the front gate after a long day, and gathered around the merchants, a habit that certainly didn’t always make our parents happy.

Indeed, his presence gave us a reason to beg them for money. One after the other, our tiny hands reached out to the vendor to hand him our 3 gourdes and later 10 gourdes – obtained from our parents through a lot of bargaining – in exchange for a bag of papita which content disappeared only seconds later.

I still recall those thin plastic bags sealed using a short string that we never took the time to untie. Instead, we made a hole in the bag using our fingers because we were so impatient to eat its content. Once no papita was left, we turned the bag inside out to make sure we savored its content to the last bite and no crumbs were left as I explained earlier.

Papitas are typically plantain-based chips. Over time, the papita flavor repertoire extended to also include potato, lame veritable and even sweet potato chips.

The vivres alimentaires are thinly sliced and sometimes dried before being fried in sizzling hot oil. The result: crispy chips that are salted before being transferred to a bag and then dispatched to their final location. The ones sold on our streets are exposed to our hot Caribbean sun, a process which impregnates the plastic bags with the salt and, in my humble opinion, also gives the papita a special taste, a taste I call gou lari a (taste of the streets).

This taste is not found in the bags sold in our grocery stores. And I must confess that the nostalgic in me quite often thinks of this gou lari a.

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