PROVISIONING IN THE CARRIBEAN
I discovered that provisioning the boat - stocking the galley, grocery shopping, whatever you want to call it is quite different from simply "buying food" back home. Whenever we arrive at a new town or village, we do not know what kind of shopping experience lies ahead of us. Usually we are anchored ouside in the bay, and we may have a 10 - 15 minute dinghy ride to get ashore. Once we are ashore we have to find the grocery store or market, sometimes we may have a 20 minute walk or a 30 minute bus ride before we find what we are looking for. Then once we have bought what we need, we load up our reusable shopping bags and haul it back to either the bus stop, or back to the dinghy dock, then we its a dinghy ride back to the boat to put the stuff away. All produce is washed carefully, especially if it comes from the market, because we don't want flies or bugs in our food. We also have to be aware of any cardboard containers as they may also contain bugs or weevils - again not something you want to have on board. So getting groceries can often take up the best part of a morning.
The quality and selection of available food varies from island to island. Because of the tropical climate there is always an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are plentiful and quite cheap. whenever possible I try to go to the local farmers market and buy from the local ladies. Here in Antigua I buy from a lady named Glenda, I met her on our trip here 5 years ago. She sells her goods in a corner of the busy marketplace in St Johns, her day begins in the early morning as she sets up her stand and continues until 5PM when the market closes. Competition is fierce with many other vendors selling similiar products at similar prices. Glenda is always pleased to see me and she has taught me how to prepare and cook the local vergetables - carribean -style. So far I have tried dasheen ( similar to a potato), plaintains, christophenes and breadfruit, as well as snacking on fruits such as soursop, custard apples, and I always buy the delicious mangoes, papayas and bananas. I have discovered that the word "grand provisions" covers a variety of local vegetables that are plentiful and easy to grow, staples would be a good word to describe provisions. It would include plaintains, yams, breadfruit, pumpkin, sweet potato etc
By far the best place for fresh produce has been in Dominica. The lush tropical climate enables farmers to produce vast quantities of food, whis is then distributed to many of the other islands in the carribean. While in Dominica, we took a couple of tours which included plantations where we got to see and taste the various foods that were grown there. I remember our guide, Cobra, making stops along the way to pick foods for us to try, sweet juicy grapefruits, oranges, papayas, nutmeg, cinnamon bark, coffee beans, ginger, pineapples, coconuts and ofcourse bananas. I love being able to stock up the galley with all these delicious foods that taste so flavourful because they are so fresh.
Meats are another issue. In some of the smaller towns, Soufriere in St Lucia for example, the grocery stores are quite small and there is no fresh meat available, instead there is usually an ample supply of chicken, chicken and chicken, and its all frozen. I remember taking pictures of the freezer in one of these tiny stores where the frozen meat selection consisted of lamb neck, pig feet, beef testicles and turkey neck or goat ribs! Clearly nothing goes to waste, and as I recall we has mac & cheese that nite! Here in the islands places where there are large marinas that cater to cruising yachts and charter boat business, we have noticed large modern grocery stores have been built since our last visit here. In these stores you can find pretty much everything that you would see back home as most of the goods are imported from the US, including, unfortunately produce. I still like to go to the grocery stores that the locals use because its generally a bit cheaper and and they have more "local" foods on sale.
The islands have different selections of foods. For example, in the french islands Martinique and Guadeloupe we found some great cheeses frech breads and croissants and of course, great inexpensive wine, but a poor selection of fresh meat! Antigua and St Lucia we found better selections of fresh meat and more of the pre-packaged foods we are accustomed to. I still prefer to buy bread from the smaller shops where you know its fresh and baked locally. It does not keep as long but there is a big difference in the taste.
When cooking on board, its pretty much the same as at home, we have a three burner stove and oven, a fridge and freezer. I usually prepare the meal with the help of a "galley slave" ( one of the crew), they will chop peel and slice as required, and then after the meal, another crew member will do the dishes and put things away. When we are sailing, i usually have a light meal, sandwiches or fruit, and also a casserole ready to go in the oven for supper. This way, if its a bit rough while sailing, I don't have to spend a lot of time in the galley preparing meals, as I do tend to get a bit seasick when below deck during sailing.
It has been a great culinary experience so far, we have tried lots of different foods and have experimented with new recipes. we enjoy going into little local restaurants and eating where the locals eat. Often you have to turn a blind eye to the overall cleanliness of these places - but so far we have been lucky. Usually you get a choice of about four items to choose from - chicken, pork, goat or fish - you don't get a choice of what comes with it, but the plate is typically full with grand provisions and always rice and beans, and its always very tasty and is always reasonably priced.
Here are a few pictures to illustrate my story.
Melvin - going up for a coconut!
Posted by Amoeba Sailing Tours on Tue, April 05, 2011 at 10:30 AM