By Ralph Seeram
Last week I wrote about the silly “food fight” that some letters were engaged in. This week I wish to take a nostalgic trip of a real food fight… This was a different food fight. It was a fight to get into a “club” in order to buy the best black pudding for sale in New Amsterdam.
In the coming week the Humphrey family of New Amsterdam will be holding the 14th Hilbert “Beef” Humphrey Annual Memorial Week of activities in the town. The activities commemorate the death of “Beef” Humphrey. Beef was a well known former Berbice footballer.
Before his death in the 90s I doubt if there was anyone in New Amsterdam who did not know or hear of “Beef” Humphrey.
He was a sports enthusiast, and ranked as one of the best football player in his day. His talent was passed on to his sons who also became well known soccer players.
It is to his memory that his sons and relatives host the week of sports activities. Various teams and schools in Berbice will be competing for trophies in football, basketball and lawn tennis. There will also be some charitable events where clothes will be given to the needy.
The Humphrey family is well known for two things; they are prominent butchers in the town, but most of all, known for their famous black pudding, a project started by Beef’s mother and continued by her daughter. I can only address the period of her daughter.
Back in the day when New Amsterdam was a very clean and thriving town, most citizens would come out either for a stroll or to go to the cinemas.
The main cinemas were Globe, which was situated on Strand at the entrance of the New Amsterdam Ferry Stelling, and Gaiety located in the heart of the town at Main Street and Theater Alley.
Most of the traffic flowed around the Gaiety Cinema area, because most of the food vendors could be found there. I am not sure if the crowd flocked the area because the food was there or if the vendors were attracted to that area because of the crowds of people.
What I do know was that some of the tastiest of local cuisines could be purchased here.
The typical local fare included fried banga mary and bread which I believe were the best seller, salted fish and bread, dhall puri, cassava pone and the list goes on.
Every vendor sold black pudding and souse, and you could purchase your black pudding and souse from any of the vendors except one, Ms. Humphrey.
Most of the food vendors were located around the Gaiety cinema (which is now a Courts warehouse); Ms Humphrey had her stand obliquely across the cinema at the corner of Main and Church Streets.
What made Ms Humphrey black pudding the most sought after? It was simple. It was just the best tasting black pudding you could eat; it was way ahead of all the others. There was always a line waiting before she arrived, but you never joined the line if you were not “in”— that is you had to be pre-approved by her.
You see, she was open to the public but did not sell her black pudding to the general public. It was only to a selected few.
She would not sell to you unless you are one of her selected clients. It was tough to get in. I know. I recall making several attempts to purchase only to be refused.
However later I did get “in”. I cannot recall how but I do believe that it was her son who “put in a word for me”. The son was a schoolmate of mine.
One of the things you dared not do was try to make a purchase for someone else. She knew what you normally purchased. Any attempt to circumvent her rules could get you thrown out. Many of my friends tried to get me to purchase her prized black pudding for them. I was not about to jeopardise my standing with Ms Humphrey. I did not hesitate to refuse them.
After all it took me a while to become a customer. I was not about to be thrown out, not even for friends. I valued my black pudding more than my friends.
Last year I attended Caribana festival in Toronto. Keith, “Beef”’s son and myself were guests of my brother, Arthur.
My brother was having an open house so I decided to make some souse while Keith wanted to purchase some beef to make some steak— Brazilian style steaks he said.
When I was finished making my souse I asked Keith to taste and give me an opinion. He was curious to know why I asked him and not anyone one else.
I reminded him that his family set the standard for black pudding and souse in New Amsterdam and who else could be a better arbiter of taste for souse than one of the Humphreys?
Most Guyanese parties in Orlando, Florida are not complete if there is no black pudding and souse.
Whenever I taste the black pudding I always use Ms. Humphrey’s standard to determine how tasty it is.
You may wonder how I can remember how a black pudding tasted thirty years ago; well you never forget how a good black pudding tastes, never.
Ralph Seeram can be reached at Email: [email protected]
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