I had high expectations for the food in Barbados. Going to a country surrounded by water, I was excited try the fresh fish, and with its tropical climate I was looking forward to enjoying the local fresh produce. I even traveled with a small blender, thinking that I would have an opportunity to make yummy fruit smoothies for breakfast everyday. Sadly; however, my high expectations for Bajan cuisine have not been met. In fact, if anything the adjusting food in Barbados has been one of the biggest struggles I have had in my study abroad experience.
This is not to say that the food in Barbados is bad. Perhaps, if I had come with more realistic expectations, then maybe I would have enjoyed the food here more. For example, although I expected to find fresh fish everywhere, I have yet to consume fresh fish that I did not cook myself. In general, they serve fish fried. While fried fish is delicious, as a Californian who does not normally consume a large amount of fried food, it was an adjustment for my stomach to consume fried fish on the regular basis rather than as an occasional treat.
The easy remedy for this would to be to buy fresh fish and cook it myself. However, this is not as easy as it may seem. The fish in the grocery store is rarely fresh, and has often imported from somewhere else. Being a student with limited transportation in a country with a very confusing transportation system, it is difficult to get to the beach side vendors who sell fresh fish.
The situation is similar with produce. While I expected to find an abundance of local fruits and vegetables available, most of the produce in the grocery store is imported and is often half bad since it had to cross an ocean or two to get all the way to Barbados. I have found that the best produce tends to come from street vendors. Locally grown spinach, cucumbers, and okra are delicious; however, even the street vendors don’t usually to have fruit to sell and I have to settle for the half rotten imported fruit from the grocery store.
Though the national dish is flying fish and cou-cou (similar to a blend of cornmeal and okra, it can also be made with breadfruit) and my expectations to find fish everywhere, Bajans eat a lot more chicken than fish. The typical Bajan meal will consist of meat (usually chicken), a starch, and vegetables. Other Bajan fare includes fish cakes, macaroni pie, coconut bread, rum punch, and pudding and souse. I haven’t had the opportunity to try cou-cou, but I have tried everything else. The only dish I did not like was the pudding and souse. The pudding consists of some kind of intestine and sausage and the souse is pickled pork. My favorite food in Barbados has been the macaroni pie, which is basically macaroni and cheese that is baked. I also really enjoy the coconut bread.
Living in another country has made me realize how essential food can be to making me feel at home. It has also helped me to appreciate the variety of food options available to me in California.