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EASY MAGAZINE: Judy Lorne: Love being a nutseller


EASY MAGAZINE: Judy Lorne: Love being a nutseller

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Standing proud and tall, balancing a tray on her head filled with “comforts, toffees, packages ah nuts”, the traditional nutseller was a staple on the Barbadian landscape.

But those images started to dwindle at the turn of the 20th century. You started to see fewer trays and an emergence of stalls.

Although the character of the nutseller with a tray on her head in the streets of Bridgetown has vanished from sight, one local vendor tries to keep this aspect of Barbadian culture alive.

Judy Lorne is proud to carry the title of nutseller, and when the National Culture Foundation (NCF) or the Barbados Museum hosts events that features the island’s culture, one can be sure she is contacted.

Judy, 55, makes no apology for having a love of the cultural aspect of anything Barbadiana. The owner of Salena Spice Creations not only does it for show, but this is also how she earns a living.

Eight years ago, Judy got the idea to be a nutseller when she realised that the nutseller was not given enough recognition for their local contribution to culinary arts.

“When I did a confectionery course with the NCF I decided that I was going to keep this part of our culinary culture alive because it is integral. I love doing the role as the nutseller because that is a dead part of our culture. 

“When last have you seen a woman dressed with a tray on their head,” Lorne asked rhetorically.

“It because it calls for a certain amount of skill to balance the tray [or basket] on your head,” she said.

The businessowner is aware of the rich history of the nustseller and said the character lived in a time when everyone depended on them for sweetmeats.

 “A lot of people’s mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers were making confectionaries because we did not import anything, unless it was maybe Christmas. All the traditional sweets were the order for the day, like the soft sugar cake, which I think was called Mary. Depending on which parish the confectionery was made in, it had a different name. Everybody was not competing for a share in the market but they were putting their own spin to it,” she said.

Before Lorne got into the confectionery business she owned a bar named J’s Pickle Bar in Suttle Street, Bridgetown (specialising in pickled chicken feet, pudding and souse and pickled chicken wings). However, she sold the building and worked at Columbian Emeralds for a while. After her stint at that jewellery store, she started private cooking, also delivering orders.

With cassava and corn pone, conkies and cou-cou and flying fish being on the menu for weddings, conferences and baby showers, customers would recommend her to their friends and familes.

It sounded lucrative, but on paper it wasn’t enough to sustain her so she worked as a housekeeper, which she continues to do today.

Lorne grew up in Bank Hall, St Michael, and lived in Martinque for 10 years said her mother taught her how to handle herself in the kitchen.

“She would give me advice on preparation and different ways of making certain ingredients and flavours.”

Her business Salena Spice Creations, is a combination of all her daughters’ names and attributes of her personality. Spice commemorates the period when she returned home from Martinque in 1995. She was reffered to as the spice girl because she embraced a lot of Martinque flavours in her food.

 “I am trying to take the confectionary thing to a next level, but I do not get the support you would expect. I get beat down for my prices.

“It is sad because you may present something from somewhere else and it gets embraced more. There are some people that if they can get what I make in China for [a quarter] of the price they would forget me, although they would not know what is used to preserve the product,” she stressed.

The patriotic Lorne added that she is disheartened when tourists come to the island and are not sold genuine Barbadian items.

“Go in the souvenir shops. When you look at certain products turn them upside down and tell me what do you see. How can you dishonestly sell a tourist something made in China and purport it was made in Barbados? If you put some of the mugs in the dishwasher Barbados is going to wash off because Barbados is only steamed on while the other markings underneath are glazed on.”

Judy is a strong independent woman. In 2001 her husband left her for two weeks and never came back. She has been a single parent since then to 29-year-old daughter Samira (at university in Canada); Leyla, 26, who is in Germany trying to become a professional beautician; Nabila, 24,  who went to Martinique to become a natural hair hairdresser; Lina, 18, who is studying languages at Barbados Community College;  and 16-year-old Nadhira (who wants to learn Japanese and become an architect).

“I want my daughters to have their dreams and pursue them. My childhood dream was to be a Confiseur (a skilled artisan in edible confectionery products including sugar manufacturing as an essential component). I still have hopes of attaining this dream,” she said. (SB)