Grenada & Carriacou
September 1-30, 2013
If there's one thing that cruising has taught us, it's that our cruising family is every bit as important, supportive, loving, and loved as our blood relatives back home. We spend as much time together as we did with friends and co-workers combined in our previous lives; and in addition to emotional support, we count on each other for everything from security to boat parts to mechanical advice to recipe ideas to ice cubes for a happy hour drink (love you, Island Dream!). We've had the good fortune to travel with our current cruising family for (depending on the boat) six months to two-plus years now, and we love them all. Admittedly, it's been less common for us to get as close to a local family in our travels, mainly because a) we don't stay in one place for more than a few days or weeks, and b) we tend to frequent places that offer free wi-fi.
Grenada has become the exception to the rule. We've been adopted by a local family who treats us as their own. We met two brothers, Richard and David, at the "King of the Grill" BBQ contest, where they generously invited us to join them at their weekly family get-together the next day. We arrived at a local beach not far from our anchorage, and found ourselves surrounded by four generations of family members, plus various friends and extended family.
We must've met 30 people that day, and we struggled to remember names, who was married to whom, who was related to whom, and the like. A huge pot was set up on a wood fire, and we were told that lunch would be fish broth. Now before you start envisioning some watery bouillon-type of dish, you should know that "fish broth" is more of a stew. It typically includes carrots, onions, potatoes, hot peppers, seasonings, whatever fish are available - some whole, some cut up, and always including fish heads for flavor! - and of course, dumplings.
Grenadian dumplings are much drier and firmer than their American counterparts; they're supposed to "pop" when you bite down on them. Richard and David's uncle, Rubin, and his brother-in-law, Dog, showed me how to make the dumplings, rolling the dough between our hands into finger-sized sections before tossing them into the pot. "Next week, YOU make the dumplings!"
We joined them again the following Friday at Rubin's restaurant, where his wife, Virginia, and sister, Nester, were busy cooking barbecued chicken, pork, and fish, along with yummy fried "bakes". Most of the family members that we'd met the previous Sunday were hanging out at Rubin's, and we all agreed to spend Sunday with them again...this time, for Grenada's "national dish", an oildown. Oildowns are a bit trickier than fish broth, since the coconut milk that forms the base must cook down until there's almost nothing left.
We got to the beach around 9:30 Sunday morning, and began cutting up the vegetables that would go into the pot: breadfruit, carrots, seasoning peppers, potatoes, callaloo, and more. Coconut flesh had been shredded ahead of time, and was soaked in water and strained to make fresh coconut milk (no cans here!). For the meat, Rubin added a bucket of pre-seasoned chicken, turkey, and pig parts - feet, tails, necks...you name it.
Curry and turmeric were added for seasoning, and everything was loaded into the pot. (I even got to make the dumplings, although Rubin added the water so I woudn't end up with a sloppy mess.) Once the coconut milk boiled down, the oildown resembled Grenada's national flag: the yellow of the curry, the orange of the carrots, and the green from the callaloo. And the taste...heavenly!
The next weekend, we invited a few of the family members aboard Ke 'Ola Kai and Pipe Muh Bligh for a happy hour/boat tour. Grandma Teresa, the family matriarch and long-time teacher of great cooking, sent the family to us with a huge batch of homemade ginger-curry-pumpkin soup. Thank you, Teresa! Between the soup, our appetizers, and the chicken wings Rubin brought for us to grill, we had plenty of food...as usual. We had a terrific time hanging out with Dave, Darnell, Nester, Rubin, David, Richard, Popo, and Dog, but later learned that we'd made some other family members jealous. They wanted to come see the boats, too!
After having been fed fabulous local dishes for two weeks, we decided it was time for us to feed the family for a change...or so we thought! We'd agreed to do an American-style barbecue on Sunday, but first Rubin and his family invited us to have breakfast at his house that morning. Virginia and Nester had also agreed to teach me how to cook some local dishes, so we met Richard at the dock at 8am for the short drive to Rubin's. We walked into Virginia's kitchen to some amazing smells, along with towel-covered bowls on every available surface.
There were bowls of dough ready for shaping into coconut bakes, batter for fish cakes, coucou batter (Caribbean polenta) ready for frying, flaky fish souse (made of saltfish, onions, and seasonings), and pots of cocoa tea (think "hot chocolate on steroids"). We kneaded, fried, and strained to our hearts' content, and joined the rest of the family for the feast on the front porch. How were we ever going to eat again at the beach that afternoon?? Well, we had to - we had MEAT to cook!
As for that barbecue... Back in California, Lisa's family was famous for grilling meat on pitchforks. After a bit of a hiccup with the butcher (who was supposed to bring us 15 pounds of meat but only brought four...oops), we managed to gather six pounds of sirloin along with potato salad, BBQ pulled pork, Caesar salad, chili beans, rolls, and pina colada cheesecake for Darnell's birthday.
We were a little worried about whether we'd have enough food for everyone, but we shouldn't have bothered; the family brought a dozen more dishes, from callaloo lasagna (thanks, Kathleen!) to homemade pizza to rum-soaked fruit cake. They even had a pot of fish, conch, and octopus broth simmering on the fire. Do we know how to eat, or what?!
We spent the next couple of weekends doing more of the same, with Friday nights spent at Rubin's restaurant and Sundays spent cooking out at the beach. Between learning how to play the "local" version of dominoes (as opposed to the cruiser fave, "Mexican Train"), eating Virginia's stewed surprises ("manicou", a.k.a. possum, and iguana), and trying Rivers (kill-me-now) rum, we really started to feel like locals. As Nester told us one night, the family adopted us, and we adopted the family. What more could we want?
In addition to cookouts with our new family, we also managed to attend a cooking class at True Blue Bay Resort and even made it to a couple of hashes in September. Lisa and Dave were "de-virginized" (hash-wise) up in Goyave, and we, JoHo, and Ke 'Ola Kai (unfortunately without Lisa - miss you!) all sailed up to Carriacou for the annual hash weekend up there. Okay, so Rene was the only one who actually hashed...but that's another story!
The hash get-togethers were a lot of fun, and we felt like we did some good at the big beach clean-up on the windward side of the island. We also got to spend some quality time with JoHo before saying a temporary goodbye; they'll be heading north over the next few months while we stay in Grenada through the end of November. We've all made plans to be in St. Martin for the Heineken Regatta in March, so hopefully we'll see them again then.
In the meantime, we're looking forward to next month when we get to bring our Grenadian family up to Carriacou to celebrate David and Kathleen's anniversary, Grenadian Thanksgiving, and Brianna's birthday. If we're REALLY lucky, Sherwin will even have his floating bar ready for a grand opening...or at least a sneak preview!
As the song goes...We are one fam-i-leeeeee!!!!
Thanks again to Jolanda, Lisa, & Darnell for sharing their pics! Enjoy more beach pictures here. Enjoy more hash pictures here.
2 years ago