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A true taste of the Caribbean

June 16, 2011
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A true taste of the Caribbean
A true taste of the Caribbean It’s a well worn cliché that students live on three minute noodles. But is it true? Back in days of yore when I was a student, we used to give elaborate dinner parties, often themed. I remember particularly fondly the outdoor feast we had one summer before everyone headed off on vacation, where we spit roasted a whole lamb in our big back garden, set up long tables under the apple trees and proceeded to get very merry indeed. Feasting on this epic scale didn’t happen every week, but I knew a lot of students who were accomplished cooks. After all there’s nothing that makes the prospect of cooking so enticing as a whole heap of study needing to be done. We’ve all heard the siren call of the procrastination bird. One of the many amazing things about studying medicine in the Caribbean is the opportunity it gives to immerse oneself in the local cuisine, experiencing new tastes and learning new recipes. Cactus soup in Bonaire Bonaire’s cuisine is a melting pot, mingling tastes from the many cultures that influenced the island’s history. Geographica’s interesting pages on Bonaire describe the resulting culinary palette as colorful, “Incorporating the zesty cooking of Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, robust northern European fare imported from Holland, exotic Indonesian spices which reached the island via the maritime traffic of the Dutch Empire, and bold, flavorful cooking carried to Bonaire from West Africa.” Today much of the food in Bonaire is imported, but there are some key local ingredients. Meats include goat, pig and iguana. Local produce includes beans, okra, sorghum, mango and soursop. As you’d expect, fish is a staple, with Dorado (Mahi Mahi) and Wahoo being particularly common. Popular local dishes are a goat stew called kabrito stoba, funchi, a cornmeal side dish, like polenta, and pastechis, little meat or fish filled pastries. There are a number of interesting soups: sòpi di binja, wine soup, sòpi di kadushi, cactus soup and sòpi di yuwana, iguana soup. Bonaire also has its own drink, Cadushy of Bonaire, a liqueur made from the kadushi cactus. If you’d like to try making some of these dishes for yourself, Geographica’s page on cuisine in Bonaire has a number of recipes. Recipe Direct has a page on food in Bonaire with links to more recipes, some of which are more Caribbean fusion in style, but delicious none the less. Pigeon peas and rice in Anguilla Just as the food of Bonaire has been strongly influenced by the island’s multi cultural heritage, so to the food of Anguilla is flavored by African, Amerindian and European tastes. Local ingredients are similar to those in Bonaire, with fresh fish, pigeon peas, coconut, sweet potatoes, plantain, yellow corn, mangoes and limes.  Perhaps the abundant crayfish and spiny rock lobsters are the food most strongly associated with Anguilla in its current incarnation as a luxury resort. These are also a growing export for the island. Typical dishes include conki dumplings (steamed corn dumplings, sweetened with coconut and spices), a traditional salt fish dish with onions, tomatoes and peppers often served for breakfast, and pigeon peas and rice, Anguilla’s take on the classic Caribbean rice and peas.  If you’ve got a taste for the tart, Tamarind balls, a mouthful of sweet and sour, are a seasonal local delicacy when the Tamarind pods are ripe. When it comes to quenching your thirst mauby drink is made from the bark of the mauby tree infused with spices and aromatics such as cloves, mace, orange peel and cinnamon stick and the local dark and dangerous brew Pyrat Rum has no doubt been responsible for a few sore heads in its time. The Anguilla Guide online has a page of local recipes to try. Recipe of the month We’re starting a new monthly competition over on the School’s Facebook page asking you to share your favorite recipes for cash strapped, time poor students. So break out your recipe book and tell us what gourmet delights you like to whip up at the end of a long day of lectures.  You definitely get bonus points for working in local ingredients! We’ll be asking people to vote for their favorite recipe and the dish with the most likes at the end of the competition will win a $50 voucher for City Café (Bonaire or Tasty’s (Anguilla) to sample the local cuisine.
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