Bajans (Barbadians) believe that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. The Bajan woman's cooking skill therefore is highly praised, and a woman who cannot cook is hesitant to admit it.
Bajan cooking is especially creative and commendable for two reasons. One is that there are few native foods available. Another reason is that a skilled Bajan cook has a talent to treasure: for most islanders the food budget doesn't stretch that far. The Bajan housewife tries hard to "make six a nine," that is, to stretch the family dollar. And in doing so, she calls on a vast number of cooking techniques drawn from diverse cuisines, from African and English to Indian and Spanish.
For these very reasons the villa holiday on Barbados can be a gastronomic delight. A Barbados villa comes complete with a minimum staff of a cook and a housekeeper/laundress. In many of the larger estates such as Fustic House, Bluff House and Sugarlands, it is a professional chef who's in charge of the kitchen.
It is tradition, at least among our staff, that when visiting the island their arrival night's dinner includes such notable staples of flying fish, or cou-cou with peas and rice. Sweet coconut bread is always requested for dessert. Whatever coconut bread is leftover from dessert is wonderful to dip in your morning cup of coffee – provided one of your traveling companions doesn't wake up before you and forgets to share.
Flying fish is a silvery blue fish that is seven to nine inches long and abounds in clear warm waters in many parts of the world. Yachtsman have often reported seeing schools of fifty to one thousand flying fish suddenly leap from the water and glide through the air up to seventy-five feet. (They are usually trying to escape predatory fish.) In Barbados these fish are plentiful from December to June. Flying fish are seasoned and marinated for several hours in a blend of minced onions, garlic, herbs, goat pepper, sea salt and lime juice. The traditional preparation is either fried or steamed. We prefer fried. Cou-cou is a cornmeal and okra pudding, a relative of a basic foodstuff of Africa called "foo-foo". It is ladled with gravy and served with salt cod. Peas and rice is pigeon, green or blackeye peas that are mixed with specially seasoned rice. It is rare that a Bajan meal is void of peas and rice.
Some of our other favorites or "musts" while we are on island include roti and conkies. Roti is a favorite food of the Bajans and is of Indian origin. It consists of flatbread, similar to a tortilla, with a spicy meat and curry mixture inside. Conkies are made up of cornmeal, coconut, pumpkin and spices, mixed to a thick consistency and steamed in young banana leaves. Both dishes are often made at home, but are also available at many "local joints" or beach bars. Don"t leave Barbados without trying either at least once. You"ll be glad you did.
"Whole peas' an' rice is very nice upon a rainy day..." --- Bajan folk song
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