Saturday, February 25, 2006

Bequia Rasta Market

Eggs to Order

Crab Cakes with Sun Dried Tomato and Herb Aioli

Callaloo Vichyssoise
With Yoghurt and Crispy Pancetta

T-Bone Steaks with Bana Cota
(Anchovies, Garlic, Chives, Lemon and Olive Oil)
Jerk Roasted Potatoes
Sautéed Christophine with Red Onion and Cilantro

We’ve just wrapped up a ten day tour sailing from St. Vincent to Grenada with three lovely gentlemen from Chicago (the owner of the boat and two of his friends) and it couldn’t have gone smoother. The weather was perfect, they loved my cooking, I provisioned really well for the trip, and the captain has been great.

We spent three days in St. Vincent and funny enough, ended up anchoring right next to my friends that I sailed with from St. Barth to St. Martin with on New Years day, and had dinner aboard their boat the night before we picked up the owner. Dinner was great. Two friends of theirs were anchored nearby and came with wine, I made breadfruit salad and marinated ribs in the seasoning that Vee taught me to make the day I spent in her kitchen, and my friends made steaks, roasted vegetables and a big green salad. All three boats were preparing for guests and we’d all spent long days cleaning from top to bottom and getting ready. The dinner party was a welcome break and a good time was had by all.

It’s amazing the transformation the boats go through before the guest’s arrive. Before our owner arrived their were “crew covers” on everything, like the plastic coverings over the couch in the living room at Aunt Martha’s, only much nicer. The floors were bare, nice glassware and dishes packed away. But in preparation for their arrival crew covers came off to reveal leather couches; oriental rugs were laid out on the floor; artwork was uncovered; dishes and glasses were put out; the wine cabinet and liquor cabinet were stocked, etc. and every single inch of the boat is cleaned and polished. The captain even sanded and re-stained the floors… Voila, a new boat…

The owner and his friends arrived early in the evening on the 8th. I prepared dinner which received rave reviews and everything started off just right. We spent two days in St. Vincent and then set sail back to Bequia, although this time we wouldn’t see our friends, as duty called...

I shopped at the Bequia produce market, a series of enclosed stalls in a small building near the harbor. I felt like an injured calf amongst a school of hungry piranha as I entered the market, chumming the water with my boat uniform and pasty hue … I was quickly swarmed upon by half a dozen dreadlocked Rasta’s saying, “miss, miss, you want to buy something from me today?” Everything I touched cost at least $10 E.C. (East Caribbean Dollars), or $10 E.C. a pound. As soon as I began to buy from one stall, the Rasta’s from another stall would come over to me and say, “miss, miss, save something for me, ok?”… $80 U.S. dollars and three not-so-big bags of groceries later I knew I’d been had…

On my second trip to Bequia market I was confident that I wouldn’t be taken as badly as I had been on my first trip. Upon entering, as the Rasta’s started to approach with their, “miss, miss, what do you want to buy from me today” I was quick to announce that I wanted to look around first and they stepped back and let me pass. I walked from booth to booth checking everything out and not touching – because as soon as you’ve touched something, they assume you’re buying it. Then, when I found the things I liked I would point to it and they would say, “for you $10 E.C.” and I’d walk away and they’d follow saying, “miss miss, I give you very nice price. I take care of you…” to which I’d laugh and reply, “no, no, you’re just taking me” then the price would fall to $8 E.C. and I’d look at them and say “come on” and roll my eyes, and then they’d throw in some “free” passion fruits, banana’s or a soursop. By my third trip, they wouldn’t even approach me when I walked into the market and I’d have time to roam free and touch anything I wanted. Then, I’d buy and I was able to get them down around $7 E.C., with lots of goodies thrown in for “free”. But still, these prices were far different than what the locals would receive.

Calalloo in the wild:
On one of my trips to Bequia market I bought a large bag of calalloo. I’d seen calalloo soup on the menus in St. Vincent and Bequia and the guests had told me about the calalloo soup that they had at a restaurant – a thick, green, pureed soup similar to Vichyssoise. The calalloo leaves were beautiful, dark green and looked similar to the leaves of a Bird of Paradise. I tasted a piece raw and within minutes my throat was burning, half my face felt like it was going numb, and the inside of my mouth felt like it was being stabbed by millions of little pins… Interesting, I hoped I wouldn’t die from eating it and when the numbness passed and I knew I would live, I went on preparing… After cutting out the thick stalk and shredding the leaves I sautéed some onions, garlic, chili pepper and ginger in a pot, added the calalloo and cooked it ‘til it was very soft. Then I added chicken stock, seasoned it and pureed it; crisped some proscutto in the oven and garnished the soup with the crispy proscutto and a dollop of yoghurt (in lieu of creme fraiche). The guests loved the soup and were amazed that I could make it just from their description. I though the soup was really tasty and I can’t wait to make calalloo soup again; but I’ve also been told to bring a big bag of calalloo to a friend in St. Martin who supposedly makes an excellent calalloo lobster bisque... can’t wait!

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