This is the birthplace of Rihanna. It’s the home of West Indies cricket captain Jason Holder. And the setting for Tiger Woods’ wedding to Elin Nordegren – perhaps not the greatest of testimonials, given subsequent events. Regardless, Barbados appears to be the island that has everything…
There’s a long history. There’s oodles of flora and fauna (the island is a paradise of exotic plant life, and home to four species of nesting turtles). And a great deal of rum, with more than BBD$57 million of the nectar exported each year.
Said to be the third-most developed country in the Western hemisphere (the other two being the US and Canada), Barbados enjoys a literacy rate of 99.7 per cent, and an average life expectancy at birth is 75 years. It’s not even subject to the usual Caribbean weather: the nation’s location in the south-east of the region puts the country just outside the principal hurricane strike zone. All this, in just an island just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide; it’s no wonder the nation’s motto is ‘Pride and industry’! And what the locals are all eating to fuel this pride productivity is, apparently, cou cou and flying fish.
Cou cou itself consists mainly of cornmeal and okra – simple to make as long as you have your cou cou stick for the stirring (a long, flat, wooden stick rather like a cricket bat; essential if you want your dish to develop the right texture). But while this carb-heavy staple is pretty common across the region, the true Barbadian variety calls for a unique addition: flying fish.
Thanks to their abundance in the island waters, Barbados is actually nicknamed ‘the land of the flying fish’. Traditionally served on Fridays or Saturdays, the fish is generally seasoned with lime, salt and pepper before being simmered in a little oil, while the cou cou is boiled and strained before serving.
But this is hardly the only seafood around… Kingfish, swordfish, prawns, and mahi mahi are regular items on the menu, along with whole roast red snapper. Then you get the non-marine based dishes: pudding and souse (a dish of pickled pork with spiced sweet potatoes), fried plantain, and sweet potato pie to name a few. With a cuisine that’s a sumptuous mix of African, Portuguese, Indian, Irish, Creole and British influences, anything from fried chicken to chow mein to curry could be on the menu. You can even get samosas made with conch; when it comes to cuisine, Barbados is definitely an island that has it all!