Friday, March 11, 2011

Barbados

Independence: 1966, from the UK
Location: Caribbean, northeast of Venezuela
           Easternmost Caribbean island
Area: 430 sq km, 200th in the world
          2.5 times the size of DC
Elevation: Ranges from 0 m to only 336 m
Population: over 280,000; 180th in the world
Capital: Bridgetown
Nationality: Barbadian or Baja (this is important!)
Ethnic groups: 93% black
Airports: 1
Language: Officially English, although a variant called Bajan is spoken colloquially.  Depending on the accent and slang, it can be unintelligible to English speakers.
Famous People: Rhianna is from Barbados, and Wikipedia tells you this with a scantily clad picture of her wearing a Mickey Mouse hat...

Barbados is a pretty big milestone for me.  It is the first country in this that I have actually visited!  It was one of the stops on our honeymoon cruise.  That was the one day we decided to take the "excursion" where they brought us to the beach, gave us things like a chair, an umbrella, and a drink, and then picked us up.  Our original plan was to experience actual Barbados in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, I felt sick that day, so we ended up going back to the ship and sleeping.  Therefore, we didn't try any local cuisine (other than the drink) and didn't get to see much that wasn't touristy.  I still have pretty pictures, though!
This one is for Erica and Ryan.  Tom Colicchio and Marcus Samuelsson were going to be there!
Gorgeous white sand beaches.
And the blue sky to match.
Unfortunately, they didn't really take us too far from the boat...
As long as you didn't look too much to the left, though, it was wonderful.
 Kevin skipping rocks plus holding on to a beer.  Multi-talented.
Our attempt to make a Barbadan beer advertisement.
Coming back from our walk.  We even found locals!
Man, those pictures make me happy.  What a good time.  And pretty!

Back to the states, unfortunately.

The national dish of Barbados is Flying Fish and Coucou.  Great.  Except I don't like fish.  And I don't know where I would get the flying variety.  And what is coucou?  Oh, my cookbook has a recipe for that.  Corn meal and okra.  Last time I tried, I couldn't find okra.  Oh boy.

So I started searching.  And searching and searching.  I quickly learned that things described as "Bajan" counted.  I also quickly learned that a lot of things are called "Bajan" that didn't originate in Barbados.  People were taking their experiences and flavors of the island and creating their own dishes.  That is fine for them, but not what I was looking for here.  So I had to keep going.

I literally searched over a multitude of days.  I found a lot of recipes that involved phrases like "tail of cow with skin still on" and "pig intestines."  I am learning to be adventurous, but I'm not there yet.  Maybe by Zimbabwe.

There was one recipe that I was avoiding because I refused to believe it was authentic.  But a similar one popped up again on another site.  In my frustration, I clicked on it.  There were, at least supposedly, comments from Barbadans.  They said it tasted just like home.  So I decided to go with it.


That's right.  Bajan macaroni and cheese.  It certainly had some flavors in it you don't normally see.

In choosing the noodles I was a little confused.  It says long tubes, but I didn't know if it was a unique macaroni you can't find here or they meant penne.  So I bought both.  In the end, I went with the elbows.
PS...Blogger is currently not letting me add more than one picture at a time.  This is...annoying.

Next was cheese.  I had some already shredded, but I wanted it to be nice and fresh.

I got the amount right on the first try.  Booyah!
That ends up being quite a bit of cheese.  In fact, there was more cheese than noodles.
I am also, somehow, still having to buy new spices for these recipes.  I don't know how many more we can fit in our cabinet...
It was then time to mix all of the other ingredients and put it together.  What happened to (1) make noodles (2) add cheese?
The cheese doesn't so much coat as it does clump.
Now this is getting to be more like it.
I hadn't used our casserole dishes, but luckily we had one that worked perfectly.  It all fit, and had just enough extra room for the toppings.
While that is cooking, it is time for me to make cou cou.  I actually was able to find okra this time, so I wanted to be able to do something I could be sure was truely Barbadan.
I wasn't really sure what it looked like until I found it at the store.
It leaves a...sticky film as you cut it.
I thought I had bought too much, but it ended up working out.
Essentially, for this you boil okra and then add corn meal and butter and combine it all in a pot.
I wasn't sure whether self-rising was a good or bad thing, but it was all they had.
It ended up with a really bizarre, sticky consistency to it.
To round it all out, we of course needed something to drink.  On our honeymoon, we started getting different rums from our different stops.  In Barbados, that equals Mount Gay.  Kevin looked for a recipe.  We ended up having the correct stuff to make La Bomba Negra.  In this part, Kevin helped.  :-)
Oldest rum in the world.
Kevin adding ingredients.
Our cocktail mixer MIXES ITSELF.
Glass from the Bacardi factory.  Close enough, right?
Now everything is done, so we just need the finishing touches.
Butter...
...makes it shiney.
Mmmmm melted cheese.
Tesla even tried to help put the dishes away.
Or guarded the cabinet so I couldn't.
Okay, so we have three separate things we need to evaluate here: mac and cheese, cou cou, and drink.

Cou cou - very weird.  The consistency was hard to get over.  Silverware bounced off of it.  It didn't necessarily taste bad.  In fact, I didn't think it had much taste at all.  Maybe more salt was needed.  I don't know.  It was just weird to eat.

Drink - Kevin definitely did not like this drink.  He thought it was very bitter/sour.  I ended up having to drink the rest of his.  I thought it was okay, but not something I would ever order in a bar.

Macaroni pie - Ah-mazing.  Could anything with that much sharp cheddar be anything else?  Having been a child who grew up on Kraft, it still sometimes takes me a little time to get over the grainy-ness of real melted cheese.  But it is worth it.

It was a little mustardy, and I think that that is all I would change.  Sometimes the bites tasted like you took a spoonful of spicy mustard.  If you still want the spice, you could reduce the mustard and add more in of the other stuff.  But overall, this was quite delicious.

Summary - Mac and cheese over drink over cou cou.  A mantra to live by, I would say.

Next time will be coming to you from on the road.  Get excited!
Tesla certainly likes to travel cross-country.  Or at least preventing us from playing things that take our attention away from him.
Last time: Bangladesh
Next time: Belarus

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