The raucous West Indian Day Parade presents many opportunities to sample foods that don't often show their face in New York. I've come across breadfruit many times, often roasted, occasionally slow-cooked, but until this year's parade I'd never encountered boiled breadnuts. The batch shown here (first photo) surfaced at a stall wearing the colors of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Though the texture was similar, in truth they were not as toothsome as the very best chestnuts.
Most of the vendors, such as the Jamaican couple whose menu included blue drahs (second and third photos), aren't affiliated with restaurants; they prepare food only for catered events and other special occasions. Blue drahs — as in drawers, the undergarments, perhaps with off-color connotations — are also known as duckunoo and dukunu in Jamaica. Similar starchy, leaf-wrapped, boiled puddings include the ducana of Antigua, the ducunu of Belize, and the conkie of Barbados; all have common roots in West Africa, and with foods such as the kenkey of Ghana. This particular parcel, wrapped in banana leaf, included cornmeal, raisins, coconut milk, and spices. As with kenkey, fingers proved to be the best utensils.
The West Indian Day Parade is held each year on Labor Day; it runs along Eastern Parkway, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. You'll find food vendors along the parallel roads to the north and south of the parade route. Though it's possible to cross Eastern Parkway, this becomes more and more difficult as the parade proceeds; by mid-afternoon, in many places it's difficult to maneuver at all. To see as many vendors as possible, a good strategy is to arrive by late morning at the Utica Ave. end of the parade route, work your way along the south side of the parkway, cross over as you near Flatbush Ave., and eat your way back to Utica Ave., or as far as your stomach can take you. If you'd prefer to focus your explorations, the most fertile territory is along the south side between Nostrand and Franklin. You'll also find many vendors not sanctioned by the parade organizers on those and the intervening avenues; I spotted the breadnuts only by getting off the main drag.
For many more photos from multiple years of the parade, see my slideshow.
West Indian Day Parade
Eastern Parkway between Utica and Flatbush Aves., Crown Heights, Brooklyn
(The 2013 parade was held on September 2)