B. J. and I have made the Bahamas and the Caribbean a kind of second home. We have cruised there six times and we are in the process of booking yet another cruise to the awesome Western Caribbean in the not-too-distant future. The blue clear Caribbean is funtabulous and the tropical islands are balmy, beautiful and dreamy.
However, cruising to us two veteran cruisers is much more than just riding a boat amongst the adorable islands. We want to see and experience each island we visit first hand, chat with the natives and, of course, sample the local cuisine. While there is no shortage of food on a cruise ship, we like to test the Caribbean home cooking.
Cruise lines offer land excursions at each port of call. B. J. and I take advantage of these offers and buy into them; it is fun. It is exciting to tour these lovely islands with an informed tour guide.
Caribbean restaurants are different; they have a colorful out-of-this-world character. B. J. and I like the quaint hole-in-the-wall eateries with a great view of the sea and landscape and surrounded by palms. We found one to our liking on Grand Turk that had a grand view of the beach and the Westerdam docked beside the beach.
Cozumel had a picturesque upstairs café adorned by gaudy native arts and crafts. A panoramic view of the harbor, a calypso band, and a gentle breeze from the sea was so relaxing and wistful.
Another quaint hashery, flimflam and quite quirky in appearance, was found in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. This chophouse was situated flat down on the white sand beach. We wiggled our toes in the sand and surf as we ate; it was indeed different.
You can buy genuine American food such as hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries in the Caribbean but who wants to sail two thousand miles to order something you can get at your hometown MacDonald’s?
Try the local gastronomy.
Conch (called “hurricane ham” by some of the natives) is a Caribbean favorite. In most places, the Caribbean is familiarly known as the “Conch Republic.”
Conch is a common name that is applied to a number of different medium to large-sized sea snails or their shells. Conch meat has a mild, sweet clam-like flavor, but like abalone, it is extremely tough and must be pounded, or marinated in limejuice to tenderize it before cooking. Some of the most common uses are for conch fritters, conch chowder, conch steaks and marinated raw conch salad. Most restaurants in South Florida have conch fritters and/or conch chowder on the menu, along with the ubiquitous Key Lime Pie. B. J. and I ate our first conch in Key West.
Among the items, B. J. and I collect on our travels are cookbooks and recipes. We have a collection of cookery books accumulated from everywhere.
Following is a traditional Bahamian recipe that is made with conch. This wonderful shellfish is delicious. These fritters are great as an appetizer, finger food or as a very tasty hors d’oeuvre. Our favorite is conch fritters.
one quart oil for frying
cup all-purpose flour
ground cayenne pepper to taste
salt and pepper to taste
one cup chopped conch meat
green bell pepper chopped
two stalks celery chopped
two cloves garlic chopped
Heat the oil in a large pot or deep fryer to 365 degrees F (185 degrees C.). In a bowl, mix the flour, egg and milk. Season with cayenne pepper, seasoned salt, salt and pepper. Mix in the conch meat, onion, bell pepper, garlic and celery. Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.