Food

A Slice of Eleuthera

By
Victoria
Allman

On our first day on the island, we had hiked over a scruffy hill down a crater-maze of a road to Surfer's Beach. As the turquoise water curled under Patrick's surfboard, I struck up a conversation with a deeply tanned group of surfers.You've got to go to Monica's for a hamburger after the beach, said George, a Floridian who had been coming to the island for the past 30 years. And a pineapple pie, added a woman, who rubbed wax on her surfboard as she spoke. Hers are the best in town. The whole group nodded. Yip! agreed a yellow-haired island dog, which was snuggled deep in the sand.

So, it was no surprise when later that day all of us ended up on the porch at Monica's, ordering cheeseburgers and trading weather reports and swell conditions. As the lone non-surfer, I went inside to talk with Monica.Steam from the griddle fogged her glasses, but her smile was visible from everywhere in the dim room.

"I've been told this is the best place on the island for pineapple pie", I said. I was hoping to charm a recipe from her. "Oh, child. I don't know about that." Her laugh filled the small space. She turned her back to tend to the burgers. Another woman with tight cornrows pulled back from her face handed me a pie wrapped in waxed paper from the case below the register. "You're gonna like this." Back on Monica's porch, Patrick and I devoured our cheeseburgers at a rickety wooden picnic table and moved on to the pie. I split open the 4-inch round like a book, and the sweet smell of pineapple mixed with warm notes of nutmeg rose up. This was like no pie I had ever seen. In place of short flaky crust was a light spongy, cake-like shell. A thin layer of pineapple jam was sandwiched beneath top lattice crust. With one bite into the moist, not-too-sweet, not-too-pineapple-y treat, I knew it would not be my last.

The next day, Ponytail Pete, the local surfing guru at Rebecca's Surf Shop, whispered to me, "Two doors down, a lady named Mary sells pies at the 7-Eleven". Normally, I avoid anything sold as foodstuff at 7-Eleven, but who am I to argue with local knowledge? We stopped by the shop and picked up one of Mary's pies, then bounced in the Jeep along a one-way busted-up limestone path to Lighthouse Beach on the island's Atlantic side. Steven, a large island man selling conch and barbecue by the side of the road, had tipped us off to Lighthouse Beach. Slow Down: Fresh Conch and Jerk Pit Ahead the sign had read, and so we'd heeded it.

"Hello, boss, and good day to you, baby" Steven called out to Patrick and me when we pulled over. Half-a-dozen pink shells lined his wooden countertop, the meat still wriggling inside. He munched on the horn of a conch while he talked and chopped at the same time. "I ain't been down there in 12 years", he said. "It's an hour away, you know". He dunked a green pepper into a bucket of water with halved limes floating on the top, then diced it and repeated the process with a tomato. But, it da prettiest beach in all da Bahamas. He bagged the conch salad and sent us off with a smile.

After hiking up and over sand dunes and through native shrub, we emerged onto Lighthouse Beach to find a never-ending azure vista. Eons of water and wind erosion decorated the limestone cliffs. The sapphire ocean turned to teal and then aquamarine before lapping gently over rose-colored sand. I lowered my sunglasses to make sure it was not a polarized-lens trick.

Patrick fell asleep immediately, a coconut for his pillow. All the blissful elements were there: the sound of surf, the warm Bahamian sun, a slight breeze to keep us cool, and the flies at bay. But my mind could not be lulled into relaxing. I couldn't stop thinking about the pineapple pie in the cooler bag beside me. Luckily, it wasn't long before the grumbling of Patrick's stomach woke him, and I unpacked our lunch of conch salad and barbecued chicken legs from Steven's stand, plus some macaroni and cheese. Mary's pineapple pie was the perfect ending to our picnic. It had less of a moist, crumbly bottom than Monica's and maybe slightly more sticky pineapple reduction, but the effect was the same. It was delicious and disappeared in moments.

The next morning we went diving among gray angelfish, rainbow parrotfish and midnight blue tangs. I chased a mosaic wrasse around a coral outcrop, trying to memorize its exact shades of blue and yellow for kitchen paint when I got back homeMonticello Yellow and Blue Reef, according to the Ralph Lauren paint swatches. Patrick spotted a brown-and-tan trumpetfish trying to fool us into thinking it was a piece of coral. As schools of yellow snapper floated above. Patrick reached out to fan a sea cucumber that looked like Snuffleupagus' trunk.

Afterward, exhausted and starving, we headed down north, as the locals say, to Cocoplum's wooden beachfront deck for a few cold Kaliks and some conch salad that Coco diced before our eyes. "You haven't had nothin' til you try my mother-in-law Helen's pie at the airport", Coco assured me, after hearing of my newfound love for the taste of Eleuthera.Airport meals are another thing I try to avoid, but I was not about to doubt Coco's food wisdom after tasting his version of conch salad. His rendition contained less onion than previous bowls I had tried, and he used a combination of goat and finger peppers for heat and flavor. "You can line up 10 guys and give them the same ingredients, and they all will make salads that taste different", Coco said.

As the sun plummeted too quickly, signaling the end of our holiday, I convinced Patrick to get back in the Jeep and drive to the airport to pick up a pie from Helen. Although she laughed like a schoolgirl when I asked for her recipe, I knew that her years of experience meant she put the flavors of the island into every single pie. Her pie was moist and lighter than the others we had tried, baked in a rectangular sheet pan and cut in squares. Patrick was right. It was a long way to go for pie, but a week on the island of Eleuthera made it all worthwhile.

Victoria Allman has been following her stomach around the globe for 13 years as a yacht chef. Her odyssey around the globe is chronicled in her first book, Sea Fare: A Chef 's Journey Across the Ocean. Victoria's second book, SEAsoned: A Chef 's Journey with Her Captain, is a humorous look at a yacht chef 's first year working for her husband. Visit victoriaallman.com.  

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The beach at Fleming Villa | Source GoldenEye

In my quest for the best Caribbean Rum, I’ve sampled a few. From Appleton to Ron Zacapa rum, my tastebuds have celebrated the luscious flavors borne from fermenting sugarcane into smooth amber elixirs.

In the pursuit of rum perfection, I’ve noticed that a well-designed label can give clues about what awaits inside the bottle. Many simply present the distiller’s name and location where a rum derives its unique flavors. But it’s hard to resist the image of a crusty old captain, pirate ship or sassy sea wench when pouring a hefty splash into a tumbler.

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THE SPY WHO LOVED JAMAICA

James Bond Dr No Poster Credit Flickr

Our story begins in 1939, when a London journalist named Ian Fleming joined the British Navy Intelligence Service. His unit specialized in military espionage and covert plans to thwart German aggression in Europe and the Caribbean.

During World War II, Fleming was engaged in Operation GoldenEye, and in 1942 he was sent to investigate suspicions about Nazi submarines in the Caribbean. During this deployment, he became enamored with Jamaica and vowed to live there some day.

When the war was over, Fleming returned to Jamaica and bought 15 acres of plush land that was once used as a donkey racetrack. In 1945, he built a house not far from the banana port town of Oracabessa Bay, and the seaside property became Fleming’s tropical sanctuary where he could focus on writing and the discrete task of taking previously tight-held secrets into a public, fictional genre.

He named the estate GoldenEye as a tribute to his Navy service and began working on a book that evolved around the dashing spy and Special Agent 007, James Bond. This protagonist would emerge as the amalgamation of agents he’d met during his maritime service. As an avid birdwatcher, Fleming took the name for his lead character from American ornithologist James Bond, an expert on Caribbean birds, who wrote the definitive field guide, Birds of the West Indies.

Fleming’s first spy novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1952. This book and all 13 in the James Bond series were written in his bedroom at GoldenEye. Three of them — Dr. No, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun — take place in Jamaica.

STIR IT UP

Chris Blackwell | Credit GoldenEye

Not only did the breezy island life at GoldenEye inspire Fleming’s novels, but so did his fetching neighbor, Blanche Blackwell. She was the muse who helped spark his creative drive. The Blackwell family had lived in Jamaica since 1625, exporting bananas and coconuts and crafting a distinctive brand of rum.

Blanche’s son Chris Blackwell grew up between England and Jamaica, and in his childhood spent a good amount of time with Fleming. In 1954, after Blackwell got booted from an elite British school for rebellious behavior, he came back to the island to get involved in the family rum business. Contrary to plan, he followed his instincts and made a career choice that would dramatically alter the global music scene.

For a while, he kicked around working as the aide-de-camp to the governor and as a waterskiing instructor. But after hearing the blind pianist Lance Heywood play at the Half Moon Resort, Blackwell recorded the musician, and in 1959 he launched a music studio called Island Records. In sync with his unconventional style, it became known for discovering and nurturing innovative performers who had been shrugged off or overlooked by bigger record labels.

Island Records introduced the world outside of the Caribbean to Bob Marley and the Wailers and Jamaican reggae music, showcasing island culture and universal struggles of indigenous people. It launched British bands such as Traffic, Bad Company, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Roxy Music, King Crimson and Fairport Convention. It also cultivated artists such as Cat Stevens, Brian Eno, Grace Jones, Marianne Faithfull, Tom Waits and the Irish band, U2.

Throughout his success in the music industry, Blackwell remained in contact with Fleming and his projects. When the first Bond movie, Dr. No, was filmed in Jamaica in 1962, Blackwell was hired as a location scout and consulted on the soundtrack. Sir Sean Connery, whom Blackwell had met during the filming of Dr. No, remained a friend until his passing in 2020. Using a family recipe, Blackwell launched his boutique rum in 2008 that is distributed around the globe.

Live and Let Die was filmed in 1973 on the Blackwell Estate, which now includes The Fleming Villa. Scenes from the movie were shot near GoldenEye, Blackwell’s luxury hotel in Jamaica. The latest Bond flick, No Time to Die, returns to the exquisite Jamaican backdrop of GoldenEye, and the production team was treated to a supply of Blackwell Rum for inspiration while filming.

TO CELEBRATE 60 YEARS OF JAMES BOND, a special bottle of Blackwell Rum has been released, along with a new memoir by Chris Blackwell, The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond. If you’re cruising around Jamaica this winter, cue up some Bob Marley tunes, open a bottle of Blackwell’s 007 Rum, and shake it (don’t stir) with pineapple juice and ice to create the GoldenEye Cocktail. And if you’re nestled in at home in a colder climate and dreaming about the Caribbean, we suggest watching a Bond flick and warming up with the Toasted Toddy.

GoldenEye | Credit GoldenEye

GOLDENEYE COCKTAIL

INGREDIENTS:

-1 part Blackwell Rum

-1 part pineapple juice

-Lime or pineapple wedge

INSTRUCTIONS:

Shake together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime or pineapple wedge

Toasty Toddy | Credit GoldenEye

TOASTY TODDY

INGREDIENTS:

-3 parts Blackwell Rum

-2 teaspoons brown sugar

-1 1⁄2 parts fresh lemon juice

-6 parts boiling water

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add all ingredients to a mug, except for the water. Pour in the boiling water, Stir well to blend

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Christmas Margarita | Credit Chernishev, Getty Images

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Jack Frost | Credit bhofack2, Getty Images

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Nautical-Inspired Cocktails for Fall
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