“MY grandfather was the first African man to ride bike and sell doubles in town,” 21-year-old Moesha Hamlett tells me as I sit with her one morning at her doubles stall located on Milford Road, across from Stumpy’s Emporium, between Crown Point and Shirvan Road.
The driver of a passing car toots a horn. Moesha waves.
A woman comes and pre-orders four doubles.
A car passes and a man shouts: “Foooouuuurrrrrrr!”
“With regular customers like that, when they pass and bawl ‘twoooooo!’ or ‘foooouuuurrrrr’, I have to know exactly what they want in it,” Moesha says,
Born and raised in Trinidad, Moesha, moved with her siblings and their mother to Tobago in 2018, seeking a peaceful existence. They brought their doubles-making skills with them. “My family has been selling doubles on Independence Square since way before I was born.”
It was her Indian grandmother, Daisy Scipio from Icacos, who taught her and her family how to make doubles. “I was the youngest, so I learned to cut up seasoning and blend sauces. My mother is the mastermind with the bara. My sister is the mastermind with the channa.”
Bara, pepper, cucumber, channa, mango sauce and chadon beni sauce are laid out before her. She combines them masterfully, wrapping each order with a quick flip and neat twist of the paper to package it.
A man in a car stops.
“Six doubles, please.”
“Slight in all?”
Only those who live in the land of doubles will understand this language.
Two men in dark-blue overalls stop their truck. One hops out to order. What is it about these doubles that makes customers return I ask.
“Taste!” the driver says. “It have an original taste!”
He is at a loss for words to explain it more than that. I understand his predicament, as I too am unable to describe the special taste that caused a friend and me (at first bite) to proclaim them the best doubles we’d ever tasted.
A rasta man, another regular, drives by, shoving two fingers from his car window.
Moesha nods. “That’s known as ‘the drive by’,” she explains. “I suppose to know that it means ‘everything slight pepper’.”
He will pass back soon for his order. A woman appears, places an order. She too is a regular and vows (like everyone else) that “the taste” brings her back for more.
“It soft, not stiff like other doubles,” she adds. “I does introduce a lot of people to these doubles. I come here for the customer service too. It’s how she speaks to you, how she dresses, covers her head. She’s so well presented.” Another woman appears, requesting three aloo pies.
“Pie finish!” Moesha says. Soon after her 7.30 arrival that morning they were sold out. “Well make me three doubles. Everything except pepper. Slight, eh!”
The stinging sun angles under the large umbrella. Moesha offers me a bottle of cold water from the cooler near her chair.
“I think you should come here more often and sit with me,” she says. “It must be your energy. People coming faster than normal.”
Regulars continue to appear in quick succession.
“This is the only place in Tobago I will buy doubles from,” a woman tells me. “I come from Buccoo to Canaan just to get them.”
She and her mother are fans of Moesha’s doubles and regularly take turns buying for each other.
From Monday to Wednesday sales are slow, so Moesha brings only 60 doubles.
“Beginning of the week. People’s minds must be on other things,” she theorises.
On Thursday to Saturday (the busiest day) sales increase, so she brings 200 doubles daily to supply demand. Sunday is her day off.
I ask what message she would write for customers if she had a "Quote of the Day" blackboard.
“Love,” she says. “Love each other. Without love you can’t go on.”
In childhood, her biggest example of love was her grandmother, who passed away five years ago.
“This lady was so multitasking. Anyone who come . . . is a plate of food. She have a solution for everything. Nothing is a problem. Everyone is equal. I grew up with that love. I sorry she gone.”
“Doubles not my thing,” a female customer confesses. “I don’t eat it. I don’t eat out from people just like that. But yesterday my mind say: ‘Go buy a doubles’ . . . so I said I would come by this little girl. I buy it and I liked it, so I’m back again today.”
She is purchasing also for a friend who turns up shortly after. They stand with a male customer chatting. The stall is a pleasant meeting point for strangers and the many new friends Moesha says she has made while there.
A male customer arrives. “Good morning.” “Blessed morning,” the I-don’t-eat-doubles woman responds.
“Blessed love,” her friend adds. “Jah guidance,” says their male companion.
More customers . . .
“This is the best doubles in Canaan!” one man exclaims. “The land of milk and honey!”
When Moesha was a child, her father, an army man, wanted her to follow in his footsteps.
“But I really wanted to be a runner. I used to do that a lot and come first in school zone out.” When life challenges diverted her from her dream of running professionally, selling doubles became her daily mission. By age 18 she had earned enough to buy her own fridge, TV and bed.
“I in the sun looking for an honest dollar. That’s what my mother taught us by example. Work for what you want. Don’t touch. Don’t steal. Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you.” Impressed by her pleasant nature and work ethic, one elderly female customer once told her: “I wish you was my granddaughter. I have one home—but she not getting up, she not cleaning, she not doing nothing.”
There are many different doubles vendors, but there is only one Moesha’s Doubles.
“It only takes one try,” she says, smiling. “Try me once. I guarantee you will come back.”