The first time I was on a market for fresh fruits and vegetables I was first excited and then shocked – I paid about 90EC (which is 30€) for a small bag of vegetables. It left me thinking about if I should abandon our long-term financial plan in the category “budget for food” or the plan to pursue a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables every day. The solution was quite easy by just having a closer look at prices. I found out that in my excitement I bought a small zucchini for about 10EC (3,30€) and a tiny red pepper for 15EC (5€), but then some bananas for almost nothing. The conclusion and new rule: local food only!
We started talking to all the vendors on the markets and on the roads to ask where all the fruits and vegetables come from. Everybody was always happy to help and to explain how to cook vegetables we have never seen before. For example eddoes, very similar to potatoes, or dasheens, a bit bigger than eddoes but also similar in taste. The small zucchini was replaced by a vegetable called christophene, and the red pepper was just removed from all shopping lists. I was kept busy with figuring out all different sorts of bananas, some of them to eat as a fruit, some of them to cook or fry. After eating the last apple from Las Palmas, we switched to papaya, passion fruit, star fruit and guaves. What a good decision – we are both fascinated by the delicious new taste in our cereal bowl.
But it’s not only about fruit and vegetables. In the supermarkets I was also shocked by the prices for dairy products. Of course, all imported. We both love cheese and usually have yoghurt for breakfast, so looking at all the prices also let us think about options. Have you ever tried to make yoghurt yourself? Try it out – it’s delicious. The most difficult part in making yoghurt is to find pure NATURAL yoghurt in the supermarket between the variety of artificially flavored yoghurts with all sorts of added vitamins and sugar substitutes. The prices for milk are okay, so all you have to do is heating up milk, mix it with a spoon or two of natural yoghurt and leaving it to rest at around 40°C. Our infrared thermometer really is a great help. And so the cereal bowl is complete – local fruits, home-made yoghurt and some oats and you can fortunately get anywhere for a fair price.
With experiencing all these new tastes and flavors, we didn’t miss the cheese and zucchinis anymore. We even stopped eating chocolate (also ridiculously expensive). Every day we try something new. The most special part of getting into a new food is also getting in touch with local people very easily, asking them about their food and for new recipes and they are happy to help. The only thing we really don’t like and won’t get used to is the kind of bread they bake – white, sweet and soft. Bread and all kinds of pastry are packed in plastic bags. Even if the bread might have been crunchy right after baking, it will get soft in these bags quickly. Fortunately there are Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Martin on the way. On French islands we enjoy fresh crunchy baguette and enjoy visiting bakeries any other day.
In Bequia, one lady at a restaurant taught us how to make plantain fritters for dessert to cope with chocolate withdrawal symptoms. And another sailor showed us how to prepare lobster. We learned how to open coconut, drinking the fresh juice and then cutting out the delicious coconut meat. We improved our fishing skills and caught barracudas on a regular basis. On our hikes we found mangos and papayas on the trees (did you know that you can use papaya as a vegetable when green and as a fruit when yellow?) In Grenada, we learned a lot about spices and had a look at vanilla, cocoa and nutmeg trees. In Antigua, we bought conch from local fishermen and learned how to prepare the dish. Especially in Dominica, we came into contact with lots of people owning a farm or garden and at some point we didn’t go to the market anymore. They were all proud to show us their organic products and sold us plantains, passion fruit and much more for a fair price. And it is amazing to see how all the food is grown! In my opinion we know too little about our food we eat and buy in our supermarkets where almost everything is available every day. Here in the Caribbean we learn a different approach to alimentation. In the small supermarkets you sometimes find empty shelves which means that the ferry with goods is still on its way to the island. I always remember a fisherman I met in Dominica on the market. I asked him: “Are you gonna have mahi-mahi tomorrow?” He smiled and said: “I don’t know. I have mahi-mahi right now.”