Salina Hosein is a woman who always has her hands full of dough…not money, but raw bhara for her signature doubles. "Some doubles vendors order their bhara but I make my own. I have my special touch with the dough so I choose to make it myself. All doubles experts know that the secret to a light tasty bhara is the dough," she says as we chat about the intricacies of doubles making.
It's Tuesday afternoon, three hours before she starts rolling out her mixture for tomorrow's sales and Sally's (the writing on her box) is sold out for the day, so she has some time to enlighten me on her livelihood. I take the opportunity to ask her a question which I always debate with fellow doubles lovers- "Sauce is a term used for channa that is cooked into a sauce or is it just the name of one doubles booth in Curepe?" Hosein laughs heartily at my question and responds. "Can I tell you a secret? I am an heir of the 'Sauce' Doubles Empire from Curepe junction."
It was the brainchild of her mother.
"My 12 sisters and brothers and I used to be the fryers in the business frying bhara when we were children. My parents worked very hard to build the Sauce brand. Now, my brothers running the booth in Curepe junction. Now to answer your question. Sauce is not a type of doubles, it is the name my mother called our doubles stand, a lot of people try to copy the name but the name really belongs to my family." I wonder why she doesn't carry the name "Sauce" as well. As if she reads my mind she explains, "I prefer to carry my own name, 'Sally's'. Since I open my own booth 27 years ago on Independence Square I producing my own brand of doubles. I work real hard to build my reputation and I have loyal customers."
The mother of four has been a stalwart in city life in downtown Port of Spain for many years. Hailing from Maracas St Joseph but now residing in Chaguanas she takes me back to the old city of Port of Spain. "In the 1980s Habib building was where Church's Chicken is now, then there was Salvatori building by Frederick Street corner and Lumin Drugs was just across the road with Photo Sonny on the corner."
Her history lesson travels back in time to the July 27 coup. That day she was actually in the heat of things selling her doubles at her regular spot. "Girl all I hear that day is boom! I thought was fireworks! In those days I used to sell from day to night. Was massive pandemonium in town when everybody realise is a coup. Photo Sonny used to have a television screen on the outside so we all saw the news and realised that it was a take over. People start to pack up their booths and scamper. It was a scary thing. I was alarmed but not afraid as I am a praying person. Strange enough I didn't have much bhara remaining, I was almost sold out so I pack up my stall and went home. I will never forget that day for as long as I live," Hosein reminisced.
Today the city she knows no longer exists. Salvatori building is gone and businesses have shifted but there is one factor that remains the same and that is Sally's Doubles booth and her product is still the same. Hot, tasty doubles with mango chutney, cucumber choka and slight to plenty pepper. Hmmm…Hosein surprises me with a more in depth description of her product offering, "You think is only doubles I selling right?" Confused, I answer, "Well, yes!" "Girl well I have news for you, ask any one of my customers, the doubles they pay for, the love and the word, they get for free. I like to interact with my customers, ask them how their day was, compliment them when they are down, everybody can count on Ms Sally for a word of advice or word from the scriptures. I giving people more than doubles, I giving them love!"
Photorapher Micheal Bruce agrees as he reveals his secret: he is a doubles addict just like me and buys doubles from Sally's from time to time. He smiles as Hosein recounts an occasion where a man approached the stall looking down and disheveled and she complimented him on his nice toes. "If is one thing I like is nice toes and well shaped eyebrows. After I made the statement, the man told me that I made his day," she remembers. Instantly I look down at her polished toes which are tucked neatly into bedroom slippers. "Why the bedroom slippers?" I ask. "Comfort girl. Remember I have to stand here for half day," she claims.
In the few remaining minutes of the interview she speaks about the challenges of doubles making, the long nights of bhara making and early mornings of setting up the stall but she admits that God has blessed her with a good supporting cast and the strength to work hard. "My ex-husband still in the business and he is my cashier and my driver. We still maintain a good relationship. That is the love I talking about girl. When you have love in your heart you doh harbour grudges and resentment." She then draws reference to her spot just opposite Church's Chicken as her church and her customers as her congregation. "I like to spread joy and the good word, I think that it is my purpose on this earth and I love it."
Hosein hopes to continue sharing doubles and love in T&T for many years to come and she insists that people should start paying attention to simple pleasures and the significance of prayer in success as she alleges that her doubles story is a successful one.
"Life is not about the dough or money that 50 Cent and all dem rappers sing about. It is about food for your soul. It is about happiness, contentment and peace of mind. If you living a sad, depressed and angry life even if you have money you not really living, you just existing," she concludes giving us all food for thought with her own special sauce!
From the Editor—
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