Every year on the same day in the same place in Haarlemtown there is a great debate. A debate having nothing to do with parking fees, making the city auto free, precario belasting or overlast. This debate is about an issue so dear to some of the hearts and stomachs of countless Haarlemmers. It is the Great Bara Debate.
Houtfestival. Fathersday. A tradition for myself and my family. A tradition I am sure for many many Haarlemmers. For me is the Houtfestival a greater representation of what a Bevrijdingspop festival should be. Diverse cultures coming together to celebrate music, art, culture and damn good food. Now don’t get me wrong I do love the Houtfestival but world music is not always my thing. Tasting food from around the world though is something else entirely. And the food choices that the Houtfestival offers are simple, straight forward and great. Not just overpriced hipster food trucks but family run stands with everyone from Grandma to grandkids helping out.
Now every year I look forward to the Houtfestival and the Bara’s. But every year I somehow forget which family it is that makes the best Bara on the festival(this might have to do with the consumption of cold beer that so perfectly accompanies a Bara). For the first time this year I have learned that I am not alone in my quest for the perfect Houtfestival Bara. Friends, acquaintances, the people sitting on the blankets next to ours, everyone seemed to be consumed by the same question. Which Bara was the best Bara and which family prepared it? Was it the family from (my excuses if I am wrong here) Suriname or the Hindustan family? Every person I spoke to at the Houtfestival had some confused doubts to which family to get their Bara from. And as the afternoon went on and the beers continued to flow, all of our hungers grew. Sometime in the mid-afternoon and feeling slightly stoned (half a space cookie) I decided it was time to make a round the festival grounds and sniff out the right Bara. Just before I got up from my blanket a young couple, eternal hipster friends of mine, told me that this year the best Bara on the Houtfestival was from something called “Baramaribo”. Now, I must say that off the bat I was skeptical. I necessarily don’t care for a play on words when it comes to my food. But since “Baramaribo” was set up close by our blanket I went by to sniff it out. Standing in front of the food truck my senses remained quite. There was no salivation forming in my mouth. And there was relatively nothing to see. Where were the Bara’s frying in woks full of boiling oil? And there was nobody to take my munten. So I walked away. I somehow strategically moved across the dry dusty field before the hoofdpodium, wading through the crowds of cultural social hippie yuppie white Haarlemtown folk and made my way to where the bulk of the food stands were built up.
Under the tall trees of the Hout the aromas of all the different foods cooking mingled together. My senses began to rumble, my stomach said to my brain, feed me motherfucker. I looked to my right and saw a Surinames flag hanging from a food stall. Family number one. But was it to be Bara number 1? I had my doubts, something told me that this was not it, so I kept walking. Off to the left, my eyes caught something that called out to me. Was it to be? Yes. It was the Family! The Bara! I walked directly to the Father on the end of the food stall, a rather large man who by the looks of him knows all too well the deliciousness of their Bara. “Bara Kip and a Vegetarian Bara met Soja, alstublieft.” I asked and paid the man 4 munten. He then rewarded me with 2 tickets to paradise. I moved to the left and waited my turn. A man with gloved hands asked if he could help me. I smiled, gave him the 2 tickets and breathed deep. The images of frying bara and heaps of roti lay before me. My senses were going on overdrive. “Wil je sambal?” the man asked. “Alstublieft!”, I replied, maybe just a bit too over enthusiastic. Within no time the man handed me my two Bara’s, wrapped in aluminum foil and with a napkin. “Eet smakkelijk” – “Dank je wel, dat gaat zeker gebeuren. Oh en maak ik nog paar servetten? De baard.”
Carefully I weaved my way back towards our blankets. Trying to avoid crowds of groups, dus tand dirt and even people that I knew. I had a mission. To deliver the veggie Bara to my wife and to inhale that kip Bara all by myself. Finally, after weaving snake like through all the blankets and babies and other bearded fathers I made it back to my own home base. I handed Mara the Bara and received a smile of thanks that made my Fathersday complete. I sat down, opened a cold can of beer (sorry festival beer out of platic cups is just gross) and began to dig into the Bara. Oh, and right away I knew it was the right one. There was no mistaking it, there was actually no need to debate. The Family, the Bara, the one. So, so satisfied. How a man can be so grateful when life can be so simple. Even more so, when I went back for a second one.
Now to those who enjoy the Bara’s prepared by the other family, I do hope that they are tasty. I can not wish a bad Bara on anyone, that would just be mean. But some traditions are meant to be upheld and for me and my family that is Fathersday, Houtfestival and a badass Bara from the “Family.”
And I am already hungry for next year.