BARBADOS — A Blend of African and British Foods
Marty Martindale

The Caribbean island of Barbados is domestically distinguished for its Mount Gay Rum and coo-coo\flying fish dinners. Too much Mount  Gay isn’t responsible for skewed fish perceptions. Fish do fly in Barbados!

In the figure of the flying fish,  that’s not a mythological horse between the wings, it is indeed a real fish body, the flying fish from the Exocoetidae family. These critters found in a few waters of the world, can fly using their front fins as wings. Just like birds, they break the water’s surface, fly distances of up to 100 yards at a rate of 30 miles per hour. Some wing their way into fishermen’s boats.

Historically, the name, “Barbados” comes from a Portuguese phrase Amerindians used, and it translates, “the bearded ones.” This referred to the many bearded fig trees along the shore when they first saw the island. Barbados received a new cultural when  British settlers took over 1627, and the island remained a British possession until 1966.

In the early years, the Bajan people thrived on monies derived from slave-worked cane fields. In Jessica B. Harris’s book, Sky Juice and Flying Fish, she refers to Sir Loin, King Sugar and Demon Rum and the early “sugar highs” Barbados’ slaveholders experienced with, “…lavish parties, expensive breakfasts and groaning-board feasts … [where] the expression ‘rich as a Barbados planter’” originated. The “high” came to a permanent crawl around 1940 when the world opted to use sugar beets for most of its sugar.

Geographically, the 269,000 residents of Barbados still  produce mostly sugarcane, vegetables, cotton. They export sugar, molasses and rum. Surrounded by salt water, Bajans experience great beauty and enjoy the many fruits of the sea.

For sheer fun and rest, most every Caribbean island has its annual festival. For Barbados, it’s Crop Over which is just that. Rather like “school’s out,” the ugly, hot, back-breaking sugar harvesting season is finished for another year. Time to party! Time for special calypso music, dancing in the streets and lots of fried flying fish and coo-coo. At the annual Oistins Festival, lively fish-boning contests take place, a  slick art form performed by pros who live by the sea.

Native Bajan cooking is a mixture of the island’s history, that of spicy African slave recipes used along hearty British fare. Ingredients are produced on the island.

Below is food typically, “Bajan:”

·        Conkies are typical, with a throw back to Africa and Ghana in particular. They steam sweet or savory mixtures  of cornmeal, coconut, pumpkin, raisins, sweet potato and spices, in pre-boiled  banana leaf pieces.

·        Bajan coo-coo, is a polenta-like porridge made from yellow coanmeal, water, salt, pepper, butter and the island’s identifier, okra. Sometimes this dish is called fungi, funche and it’s usually served at flying fish dinners.

·        Eddo, sometimes called coco, is a hairy root vegetable the size of potato. It tastes like a potato and is good in soups.

·        English pudding is a Saturday night dish. It’s made with a  spicy sweet-potato sausage and souse made from pig’s gorgans.

·        Falernum, is an alcohol-free, spiced cane syrup with lime. It was developed in Barbados for fragrant rum punches. It’s also used as a meat glaze.

·        Genips, or ackee: a tart/sweet large grape.

·        Their signature hot sauces haves a Scotch bonnet peppers and mustard base. “Barbados Jack” sauce has achieved famed internationally.

Jug-jug is a stew made from corned beef, pork, pigeon peas and guinea corn.

·        Lamb in Barbados is from black-bellied sheep which look goats.

·        Lavender Tea is a distinct throwback to tea times under the British crown.

·        Peas n’ rice, or Pigeon peas are a mainstay of the Bajan diet. The peas are cooked with rice and flavored with coconut. The peas are also known as congo or gongo peas on other islands.

·        They are apt to pickle their breadfruit and make fritters with spinach.

·        Sea eggs are made from deviled sea urchin roe.

Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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