Breakfast and other important early-morning decisions

IN ENGLAND, it’s tea and toast with ham and eggs. In the US, it’s Starbucks coffee and IHOP pancakes. In sidewalk cafés, the French start the day by downing steaming espressos. But here in Trinidad, 'round breakfast time, the pie man is king.Before lunchtime, there are only five basic food groups—chicken pies, fish pies, cheese pies, beef pies and currant rolls.

If you’re a morning-pastry addict like me, then you invariably find yourself standing quietly in line on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, agonising over what combination of flaky "pastries" to have for breakfast. You agonise because you have a supreme revelation of the importance of getting these morning "pastries" right, breakfast being, after all, the most important meal of the day.

After about three seconds of agonising, you decide to macco the young lady ahead of you in line and just have whatever she’s having.

"One beef, please," she says, pausing for a moment before adding, "And a currants roll separate."

You achieve universal oneness. The choice is suddenly quite clear. You’ll have the same thing you have every morning. A beef pie and a currant (if you must, read here "currants") roll.

In the less-than-a-minute that it takes him to uncover the lid of his wooden, hand-crafted basket and probe its treasure-laden contents, the pie man gives the young lady the scoop on the Abu Bakr trial, obviously talking loud enough for you to overhear but using that casually conspiratorial tone that somehow makes you feel that you’re overhearing a private conversation.

"Yeah, if at first you don’t succeed, hang the jury and try him again," he says, talking now to you as the young lady hustles away, presumably back to work, with her two small brown paper bags.

"What you takin’?" he says, although he already knows the answer. "Beef?"

"Yeah," you say, smiling with relief as you consider how utterly ridiculous it would have been to have eaten any other pie this morning. Of course I’ll have beef, you think. One beef pie.

"And a currant roll separate," you say, silently congratulating yourself on this excellent decision, as you drift in your mind to the office a few blocks away where you will soon devour first the succulent beef and then the hot, sweet currants. Today will be a good day, you tell yourself, as you whip out the six dollars you’ve already premeditated to spend in this calculated, daily ritual.

"Nah, currants done. The lady get the last one," the pie man mutters, licking his gold tooth and clicking his silver tongs with sudden impatience. "How you reach so late today?"

Steups. You clutch your tiny package as you head back to the office, barely even hungry any more, and cursing the rush hour traffic.