A few weeks ago, when we abandoned plans for two weeks in Thailand due to the apartment purchase that gets closer and closer, we turned to Lonely Planet and flipped through to find a Caribbean island with the following: not too far, gorgeous beaches, no resort, good food, available flights and lodging. Descriptions of Indian and West African influence kept me coming back to Barbados, foods I'd never had like cou cou and cutters and snowy colored yams. Jet Blue had flights, we found a secluded guest house on a less populated side of the island, and packed our bags for five days of beaches, sun, and Bajan food.
Fish cutters were the first order of business when we arrived - these flying fish sandwiches with lettuce, cucumber, seasoned fish and Bajan hot sauce (picture a turmeric colored sauce with bits of red pepper showing through) are a staple. Our first cutter was at a casual shack of a beach bar that served only these, along with Banks beer or fresh coconut water. We enjoyed both along the breezy east coast and this one was our best on the trip. We had others - one at a plantation rum factory in a more tea-sandwich style, one in the airport - and while they were better than usual fast food or quick lunch choices, the first at Seaside Bar with its perfect ratio of salt bread to fish to hot sauce to cucumber, was best.
The hot sauce was served with everything from our plantains to start our dinner at Sea-U to the plate of fried flying fish with Creole breadfruit and okra (pictured above) to the fish cakes we had along the river in Bridgetown.
Not everything was hot sauce - there was a stone-heavy piece of bread pudding and a flaky coconut scone from Paris Bakery in B'town and sugar cakes. I prefer a bay leaf sugar cake, but the heady nutmeg one they made at Sea-U our last night as well as the coconut one I bought from a grandmother on a Saturday outside the major supermarket were the best. Coconut and banana bread started each breakfast, and better yet, at a mediocre tourist restaurant we had fabulous zucchini bread - toasty with cream on the side - to close a rainy, dark Sunday night dinner.
With the exception of a beach picnic of New Zealand cheddar on cream biscuits with a fresh mango and Pringles on the side, we ate Bajan the whole trip and loved every minute of it. Our last night at Sea-U we were treated to a Bajan Buffet - eddo soup (a variety of taro or dasheen) followed by seasoned fish, moonlit roasted sweet potatoes, squash simmered tender and plantains baked with cheese. There was also a discussion about the dolphin fish some people ate for dinner - I heard 'dolphin' and had images of The Cove. Only later, after a conversation reminiscent of French ones ("it's not an apple, but it's the shape of an apple and has a different taste" - quince):
Liam: Where do you get it?
Chef: right here at the fish market
Liam: Where do they get it?
Chef: they catch it
Liam: right here?
did we determine it was a dolphin fish, aka mahi mahi.
We closed our trip with a sweaty trip to Andromeda Botanic Gardens with cool glasses of fresh squeezed juice at the Hibiscus Cafe before we crossed the gorgeous island again to head back to the airport with a full-on history of Bajan food tour with our cab driver, Ms. Thompson. Each beep beep and 'yiiiip' to her friends and colleagues along the road was a reminder that we were headed back to Brooklyn, a ginger sugar cake and coconut pastries in our bag for the plane ride.