Friday, December 16, 2011

My Kinda Cookin

Breadfruit. I wasn’t sure whether to cook it or wash the deck with it. It is a popular food with an ominous history, imported from the Pacific to the Caribbean by Captain Bligh as cheap food for slaves. The story goes that it arrived late because of the mutiny. It has a short shelf life that turns to a smelly mess almost overnight. The fresh texture is spongey and tough; cooked, it tastes like overly starched potatoes and sticks to the roof of your mouth. It was tasty in our curry dish but I wanted to learn more about spicing it up, so eagerly signed up for a Grenada cooking class through the cruiser’s net.
The cooking class began on the bus on the way to the cooking class. I was Shademan’s only passenger for the first few miles on the winding road through the lush green hills. He perked up when I asked him what to do with the banana-like produce I had bought at St. George’s market. This large central market caters to both locals and the 3000-4000 people who swarm in every second day from cruise ships. Their overloaded tour bathtub boats sputter by Alberta Crewed every so often. It is hard to convince market vendors that I am sort of a local and when I do, prices come down.  They are generous and kind, and full of stories about their island and its cuisine. Inevitably, I get advice on how to cook my new produce along with extra peppers or roots thrown in, no charge. 

I brought home the looks-like-a-banana-but-isn’t thing as a freebee so asked Shademan about it. I heard it as “bobo” from the vendor but knew I wouldn’t say it in a comprehensible way. “Ah, Blaugers!”, Shademan finally exclaimed. Chris Doyle’s cruising guide calls them Bluggoes. “Cook dem wit cod fish. Cook da cod fish in boiling water den soak in cold water. Squeeze it, squeeze it to get da salt out. Peel da fish inta looonnnnggg strips and mix it wit da steamed blaugers. Mix wit peppers, onions, and hot sauce.”  His words are poetry.  While driving, Shademan animates the squeezing and stripping with his hands. Recipe #1 under my belt. 

At the True Blue Bay resort, I joined 25 other cruisers gathered under a shade, eager to learn more about Grenada cuisine from chefs Esther and Omega. Our teachers handed out sheets with the recipes (Pan Seared Mahi Mahi with Sweet ‘n Sour Passion Fruit Sauce and Cucumber Sambal served with Sorrel Punch) while we sipped on rum punches. Here is what the sheet said for Cucumber Sambal:
1 cup thin slice seeded cucumber
1 tsp salt
1/4 diced bell pepper
2 piece lemongrass
2 sprig cilantro chopped
1/2 Lemon Juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste or tamarind nectar
1/2 tsp chili sauce, Asian
Mix cucumber and let stand minimum 4 hours. Rinse and drain well. Add balance of ingredients, let blend 2 hours. Remove lemongrass and lime rind before serving. 
Here is what Esther said as she prepared it:
I don have no lemongrass an no cilantro and I don wanna wait 4 hours! Why wait 4 hours? Sometimes you hafta stray from de recipe.
Stray she did. She moved on to the Mahi Mahi which was really sword fish and explained how the fillets had been marinating for awhile. Marinating in what, we asked. “Oh, jus some local herbs.” We asked her a few times for the mystery herbs and kept getting, “ya know, da local herbs!” She dipped the fillets in flour, fried them well in hot oil, and presented them on the passion fruit sauce she had already prepared. I later asked Shademan about passion fruit because I hadn’t seen any at the market. “Ya haf ta ask for dem. Dey don jus give em to nobody.” I wonder if I will be worthy. 

While I didn’t get much information on Grenada spices, I met 25 new friends and learned I should have kept my Sorrel pulp for jam. We all sampled the food and I plan to try the entire menu tonight with real Mahi Mahi that Cindy and Dan from Sitatunga are bringing over. They can be my guinea pigs but I ain soakin dat salad for 4 hours. 
With Alberta Crewed ready to go, we are waiting for a weather window that is supposed to be favourable by Sunday afternoon. We’ll aim for Bequia, possibly as far as St. Lucia, to wait out the “big mess” that our weather service provider, Chris Parker, predicts for late next week. Christmas in St. Lucia - good name for a pan drum Christmas Carol.
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