Meet Carole. Her eponymous restaurant, at the far end of Fort-de-France’s Covered Market or Marché Couvert, is an oasis in an otherwise bustling commercial hub.
Past numerous stands displaying rhum punch bottles, vibrant woven beach bags and fragrant spices, Carole’s six-table eatery awaits tired, starved shoppers.
“I love the colors here,” I tell her, noticing the contrast of her caramel skin against the electric blue, rose and lime colored walls of her open kitchen.
“Moi aussi, me too,” she confides, smiling wide, “it’s different from everyone else… .” I knew what she meant–I had noticed the >> classic madras tablecloths at the restaurant tables next door, including a couple of others I had walked past to get to Carole’s.
“I agree,” I whisper, watching her burst into a giggle.
After learning how I came to be fluent in French, it’s my turn to ask about her bilingual skills on a French-speaking island.
She shares that she’s always loved to travel, like her dad. “And I loved learning languages,” Carole adds. “When I was 11, I did a student exchange and went to Barbados.”
Later, she studied in Toulouse, majoring in communication, with a concentration in audiovisual studies. But when she returned to her birthplace of Fort-de-France–Martinique’s capital–jobs were nonexistent.
“I couldn’t find any work,” she said, “so instead, I decided to feed others.”
In her corner of the market, she concocts some of the tastiest Creole dishes–seafood, in particular. Traditional plates like fricassée de chatrou–octopus in a spiced tomato stew–or fricassée de lambi, the conch version.
In a matter of ten minutes, she whips up some accras for our small group–fritters, the island’s most famous appetizer and street snack–a welcome boost of energy after a walking tour of the city.
A few days later, I run into Carole at the island’s annual Yole Sailing Festival in St. Anne, south of Martinique.
She rushes toward me with her signature smile, even brighter than the midday sun and diamond-white sand of Plage du Coin, exclaiming, “Lily, ma chérie!”
And we hug like long lost friends.
Chez Carole is open Monday to Saturday, 7am-4pm.