After a two-year hiatus, Labor Day Carnival celebrations returned to Brooklyn along with a variety of Caribbean food stands, which lined the streets in Flatbush and Crown Heights during the early-morning party that is J’Ouvert.
J’Ouvert is a French word that translates to “day-break.” Throughout the Caribbean, the celebration signifies the beginning of Carnival, and traditionally begins before dawn.
Revelers grooved to drums and steel pan orchestras starting at 6 a.m. on Monday morning for the first J’Ouvert since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival began at Grand Army Plaza and ended at Nostrand Avenue and Rutland Road. To keep their energy up, people celebrating ate and drank a variety of Caribbean treats, which were available along the procession.
Perhaps most popular among them is corn soup.
On Empire Boulevard, between Rogers and Bedford Avenues, Andy, who insisted on being called “Soupman,” doled out helpings to hungry and happy patrons.
“Well, it’s a staple from Trinidad,” Soupman said. “A staple [of] J’Ouvert in Brooklyn. One of the best to ever make it,” he said before blowing a chef’s kiss.
Gaylene Durant, who is originally from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said Soupman’s corn soup hits the mark.
“It was really good,” Durant said. “It’s an island thing, you know! The taste and everything like that; the spice and everything that was in it. And corn is good overall.”
Down the road, at the corner of Empire Boulevard and Nostrand Avenue, David Hunte and his girlfriend Marcia Bartholomew are serving doubles, a Trinidadian snack of spiced chickpeas between two pieces of fried dough.
“It’s healthy stuff,” Hunte said. He’s been serving doubles at J’Ouvert for more than 10 years. People are excited to see him, he said, “because people need food!”
Near the end of the J’Ouvert procession, the fluffy and warm bakes often used for housing savory saltfish made an appearance. Bake and saltfish, as the treat is called, is a common breakfast dish throughout the Caribbean and is popular in Brooklyn on J’Ouvert morning.
There was also Haitian fare: griot, fried pork shoulder; pikliz, a condiment consisting of pickled cabbage, carrots, bell peppers and Scotch bonnet peppers; and fried fish. And a variety of natural-made drinks, like sorrel: a hibiscus-based beverage.
After J'Ouvert, the Carnival celebrations continued along Eastern Parkway with the West Indian Day parade, which ends at 6 p.m.