Doubles: The First Taste of Home
Written by Nerissa Harrypersad
Being born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario, I have observed the transformation of the city as it has come to contain increasing amounts of businesses. Unlike previously, it now has restaurants of all kinds. Although I was born in Canada, my parents, who were born in Trinidad and Tobago and emigrated to Canada, always ensured that I knew my Trinidadian roots. This included being knowledgeable of my culture and the types of food that Trinidadian people eat. But as a young child, I was not familiar with even a single Trinidadian restaurant in Mississauga. I had heard of Trinidad’s most famous dish — doubles — but did not know how I would get to try it.
At the age of six, I went on my very first family vacation to the island of Trinidad and Tobago for my uncle’s wedding. I remember getting on the plane with great anticipation to meet my family in Trinidad for the very first time. The most wonderful feeling was leaving Canada’s freezing winter to feel the warmth of the Caribbean. Walking down the steps of the plane, I felt a heat wave hit my body, where it was humid and the temperature was over thirty degrees Celsius. As we arrived through the doors of the airport, the air conditioning refreshed us as we waited in line to be cleared by the border security officers and pick up our luggage. We then walked through a sliding glass door where we could see my aunt, uncles, grandparents, and cousins all waiting for us with smiles that could be seen from miles away. Little did I know what was coming next.
My family walked us to a small food vendor with a sign that said “doubles!” It was about a five-minute walk from the airport. The smell of fried dough called bara, and curry chickpeas called channa, was in the air along with the mouth-watering smell of pepper sauce, or hot sauce as Canadians would say. I watched the doubles being made in front of my eyes, with the baras being fried freshly in a frying pan and the channa smoking hot in a pot. I had never watched doubles being made before — my mom had never attempted making it for me at home because she did not know how.
The owner of the vendor, and also the cook, pulled out a small piece of wax paper and held it in the palm of his hand. He then put one of the fried, flat, round, yellow baras (also the size of a palm) on top of the wax paper with his palm supporting it underneath. Next, he put two full table spoons of channa on top. He then topped it off with a small spoon of pepper sauce and sandwiched it with another bara. He folded the wax paper to fully cover the doubles that he had assembled, and twisted the paper on the two ends to keep it in tact. The cook then handed the doubles to me.
I held doubles in my hand for the first time. The oil had seeped through the wax paper and my hand had gotten greasy the moment it was handed it to me. The smell and the warmth of the doubles had given me complete temptation to open up the wrapper and eat it right away, which is what did! Opening up the wrapper was messy as some of the channa had fallen out of the baras and onto the wrapper. As soon as I took my first bite I learned what I had been missing and why Trinidadians were proud to be inventors of the dish. It was a savoury spicy taste blended perfectly with curry and balanced by the baras.
At that moment, I realized now that I had eaten doubles I could call myself a true Trinidadian. Of course, every Trinidadian knows of doubles, or had tried it sometime in their lives. All the talk about doubles that I had heard growing up prior to that moment had been true, and I was finally able to experience it! Tasting doubles in Trinidad meant that I got the real experience of being in Trinidad and living like a Trinidadian.
Currently there are a handful of Trinidadian restaurants located in Mississauga. Leela’s Roti and Doubles has become my favourite doubles joint because it tastes exactly like the very first doubles that I had in Trinidad. Because of restaurants like Leela’s, I am now able to eat doubles at a moment’s notice. I consider myself a real Trinidadian now because I can now proudly say I have eaten doubles!
Nerissa Harrypersad is currently a senior student at the University of Toronto- Mississauga, completing a Specialist in Sociology and a Major in Criminology. Raised by Trinidadian parents and coming from a rich Trinidadian culture, she is particularly intrigued by other cultures, while consistently learning something new about her own culture every day. She loves the study of culture and what it means to come from a particular ethnic background.
Please check out Nerissa’s Restaurant Observation on Leela’s Roti and Doubles
Check out this short film on doubles, Doubles With Slight Pepper, by Ian Harnarine. (Harnarine, Ian. 2011. Doubles With Slight Pepper. Couberg, ON: Canada).
You should also check out this the documentary Dal Puri Diaspora (2012) by Richard Fung if you are interested in this related dish and its legacy in Trinidad. (Fung, Richard. 2012. Dal Puri Diaspora. Toronto, ON: Canada.)