At sundown last Saturday, booth number six at the Festival Village in Road Town was abuzz with activity as three generations of Freeman worked hand in glove to prepare their makeshift restaurant and bar for the Emancipation Festival that starts officially today, July 31.
The youngest of the Freeman clan on the spot was Liston Fahie Jr, who travels annually from the United States to – among other things – help his family sell food during the festival.
He actually teaches General Business, and coaches the men’s tennis team at Waubonsee Community College in Chicago, United States.
Liston holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Economics, as well as a Master’s degree in Finance.
“I finished my education; I have gotten the experience I wanted. I want to bring it back home next year to help to serve my country,” said the young man, who was born and raised here in the British Virgin Islands.
The camera-shy scholar, who later tried to deflect attention from his academic feat, insisted that the spotlight be directed at his grandmother Iris Freeman.
“She does great food and people love it,” he told BVI News Online. “I want to carry on her name.”
Mrs Freeman, who stood in earshot and beamed a broad smile while her grandson pulled her into the conversation, is certainly no stranger to the spotlight.
Three years ago, the entire Festival Village in Road Town was named in her honour.
But, at that time, tragedy suddenly struck.
Mrs Freeman lost her daughter Avis Freeman-Fahie, who is Liston’s mother.
“Her death threw me down. But I am getting ready to be back again if God spares my life,” Mrs Freeman told BVI News Online, adding that her late daughter used to help her in the kitchen during festival.
Two of her other children – Aubrey and Alma – were giving her a helping hand when BVI News Online visited the Festival Village on Saturday.
“It is a family affair,” declared the highly affable Mrs Freeman. “I have a very good relationship with my children, grandchildren, and my siblings,” she noted.
Started out as a ward attendant
Mrs Freeman, who also operates Iris’ Place restaurant at Fahie Hill, said she actually started out working as a ward assistant at Peebles Hospital.
“I moved up to a cook; I moved up to a cook,” she repeated for emphasis – almost as though she was still trying to internalize her rise.
After working for 26 years predominantly as a cook at Peebles Hospital, Mrs Freeman retired in 2005.
“I decided to do a little something – a little take-out restaurant,” she explained. “The restaurant didn’t happen to take out. People actually come in. We had a lot of customers. After business get kinda slow, I used to cater twice a week. People would ask me to cater for them.”
Mrs Freeman noted that, whether she is at her Fahie Hill restaurant or her seasonal booth at the Festival Village in Road Town, she prepares local dishes.
“That’s all I know,” the reputed cassava bread maker told BVI News Online.
While she reeled off a long list of local dishes such as boiled fish and fungi – which is also the Territorial Dish, Mrs Freeman asserted: “That is the kind of food I cook. People really patronize me for that.”
Mrs Freeman, who learnt her cooking skills from her late mother Eugenie Fahie as well as her aunt in the US Virgin Islands, said she wants to be remembered for her expertise in the kitchen.
“I want to be remembered for my food. I want people to say ‘Miss Iris can cook a good fish and Fungi, peas soup, pumpkin soup…’ I really try my best to cook my food the best way I know how,” she continued.
“I like to put a pot on fire; I like to cook. I like to have my seasonings – all the nice things to put in my food.”
Mrs Freeman, who has been operating her booth at the Festival Village in Road Town for some 15 years, told BVI News Online that she also hopes peace will reign throughout festival 2017.
“I hope everybody has a safe festival. As I always said, leave the gun at home and come to the village with money in your pocket. Leave your gun at home and have a good time,” Mrs Freeman appealed.
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