Gordon Boucher, popularly know as ‘Tarya’ has been in the business of ital cuisine from the age of 19 and looks forward to continuing for as long as his health permits.
When he started in the mid 1980’s he wasn’t doing it as a business, but friends and others who dropped by his Paul’s Avenue abode obliquely opposite the National Lotteries Authority headquarters encouraged him to start selling.
In a SEARCHLIGHT interview, Boucher explained that when he started, he was employed as a stevedore with Geest Industries for two days a week during banana shipment. He would prepare food on the other days which would be shared mainly among Rastafarian brethren.
“People would be passing and saying ‘Tarya way yo have’ and I say ‘ital’, ‘yo selling’? and I say ‘no’.
‘Well le me taste something’, so I give them and after tasting they like it and they say ‘why you ain’t sell you know, and I say ‘alright”; so that is how it started out”, Boucher explained.
Tarya ‘s day begins around 4:00 a.m; after taking a shower and organizing himself, he heads to the market to get fresh, locally grown vegetables which he later uses to make his ital.
“The ital thing is a unique thing”, he told SEARCHLIGHT, “…a lot of people don’t cook this kind of food I have”.
Tarya went on to list all the different ingredients that go into preparing his ital food: pumpkin, chunks, plantain, eddoes, dumplings, breadfruit, carrots, tomatoes – cooked in coconut milk with an abundant supply of green herbs. No salt is added.
In the early years, he used a lot of pepper, but his clientele prefers less of that these days. Back then patrons were also sceptical about the use of coconut milk as an ingredient, believing it could cause heart problems. Now, they crave the coconut milk which gives the ital a special flavour.
In fact, one patron who hails from Edinboro identified the ‘sap’ which some call the ‘sauce’ as the thing that he likes about the ital dish that Tarya serves up mostly in different sizes of calabash.
Ital food, which ranges in price from $3 to $15 is available from as early as 8:00 a.m and there are patrons who eat only from Tarya when they are in Kingstown.
Jeananne Bailey is one of them. She discovered Tarya’s ital almost a decade ago when her son was attending secondary school.
“I enjoy his ital a lot. I now come from the Leeward end, I got hungry and I came here to get a ital from Tarya.” Bailey told SEARCHLIGHT.
“And I will encourage any other person to come, cause it healthy and everything you getting in it.”
Another customer who gave his name as Earl said: “From the time I know about Tarya, I don’t go any way else and eat.”
And Florissa Davis, often travels from as far as Calliaqua just to buy ital from Tarya.
“I found out about him in High School and I’ve been coming ever since…sometimes I just come town to buy ital alone,” she told SEARCHLIGHT.
Bertram Caesar, a retiree was never lucky to be on time to make a purchase; but things were different on Wednesday when he got to the cook shop around 11:00 a.m.
“About five months ago, a good friend of his (Tarya) told me if I want ital food to come to Pauls’ Lot…. Every time I come, it’s always full; so many people, I never manage to get food. So today I decided to come a bit early and get food; tastes very nice, I like it and I will be coming back.”
Tarya, who is also well known in carnival circles as the man who for years has worn the King of the Band costume with much success for the Nelson Bloc Mas tent, cannot say how many persons turn up to purchase food on a daily basis.
“Is plenty”, he responded, “you have [students from] Grammar School; St Martins, Bishops; you have workers; I can’t even self check.”
What is usually the case is that of the five big pots of ital prepared daily, anyone turning up after 1:30 in the afternoon expecting food will go only meet empty pots.