Monday, May 25, 2015

Barbados, May 23rd 2015

With temperatures already in the mid-80s, it seemed fitting to prepare a meal from the Island of Barbados.  Not that I would ever consider deviating from my strict alphabetical rule. If that was allowed, I probably could have counted several other meals that I or Eric prepared in the last 12 years.  Because, as much as it seems incredible to me, it has been over 12 years since I started on this journey around the world.  I prepared meals in 4 different kitchens (I am counting my sister's kitchen on New Year's Eve a few years ago, plus the 3 Atlanta residences - I never did make an alphabetical dinner in the 13 months that I lived in Myanmar), visited countless stores, markets, farmers markets, grocery stores with dubious hygiene standards, borrowed ideas from hundreds of websites, googled many ingredients to see whether they were real and had a synonym or a substitute, even ordered meat from the internet and once had a guest chef (for Japan).

And despite all of this, I'm not even halfway around the world.  Barbados was my 67th dinner.  A poor yearly average truth be said (almost 6 per year).  No wonder that this blog didn't get picked up by the news like many others who had the same idea!

There are a lot of recipes and meal ideas on the web for Barbados and flying fish seems to be a staple. However, it didn't seem likely that I'd find flying fish in Atlanta (Eric said, I didn't even try to find it) so I decided to cook other dishes.

It is Memorial Day week-end in the US and it feels like half of the Atlanta's population has gone which made our shopping expedition to the Dekalb Farmers Market on a Friday evening, a surprisingly easy feat. We didn't even have to deal with the usual "excuse me but can you move your cart on a side of the aisle, get off your cell phone and remove your kids' toys from the floor, so I can get to the zucchini" all communicated telepathically through rolling of the eyes and mental swearing in Italian.

After visiting 2 more supermarkets to look for, and failing to find scotch bonnet peppers (finally substituted with habanero) and the liquor store to buy a bottle or dark rum, we finally made it home, had dinner and sat happily in front of the TV nursing a bottle of wine... until it dawned on me that I had decided to make the cake the day before and hoped that I wasn't too tipsy to concentrate!

My guests for the evening were two friends who had never been to one of my dinners so I was very excited at the idea of involving someone new to the concept.  Max, a coworker, and his husband Mikkel, are from Denmark, have lived in Atlanta for about four years and are very fun.  Joanne, a regular at my dinner table and also a guest for the evening, and I also think that Max and Mikkel's good looks add to the joy of having them around the dinner table.  And then, of course, there was Eric who I am thinking of banning from scoring my dinners as he's skewing the scores towards the low sides thus reducing the possibility that my dinners will ever become a famous cooking show.

Also special guest for the evening, Dina, Max and Mikkel's friendly and extremely well behaved dog who only barked once when my silly cat made a dash from the bathroom to the bedroom never to be seen again for almost 2 days (no, Dina didn't get to try my dishes nor did she get a comment card).

As a welcome and to break the ice, I had prepared a rum punch which was very refreshing on the hot evening and just sweet enough to wet our appetite.  I included a cherry marinated in rum just to make it prettier looking.

As a starter I prepared a cold dish, pudding and souse which is a brunch favorite in Barbados.  The souse is pork shoulder cooked and then marinated in onion, cucumber, spices and lime and the pudding is primarily made of sweet potatoes and spices.  For the pudding, it is optional to use brown coloring but I felt that sweet potato orange was pretty enough and so opted out.
Although everyone liked it, there were mixed preferences: most liked the pudding best except for Eric who preferred the souse thanks to the nice zing and tenderness of the pork.  Mikkel liked how the sweetness of the pudding contrasted with the raw onion however Max noted that the onion dominated the other ingredients.


As a main, I prepared shrimp curry.  As I was gathering the ingredients, I balked at the "1 cup butter" and so reduced it to half plus a tablespoon.  As much as I love butter, 1 cup of butter contains more than 1,600 calories and even if we were splitting it amongst 5 people, my weight watchers mindset would not allow me to put 2 sticks of butter in the saucepan.
Despite the tenderness of the shrimp and the nice and thick tomato sauce, the consensus was that it was a bit bland and it needed a stronger curry flavor.  I think this is probably because I overcooked the sauce and ended up adding water to reduce the thickness.  So mea culpa, nothing to do with a recipe that otherwise would have been perfectly lovely.
By then we had gone through quite a bit of wine which coupled with the rum punch made me completely forget to take a photo (I really need to put someone else in charge of photography).

To end, I had prepared rum cake.  As mentioned previously, I had made this the evening before and this was in retrospect a very good idea as it meant that the cake had 24 hours to absorb the rum syrup. The recipe said to cook in a bundt pan but the one I had was too small so I opted for a regular 12in round cake tin. I loved the cake!  It was so moist and the sweetness masked the flavor of the rum but you could still feel the burning of the alcohol.  Although Max said he doesn't like rum, he commented that the cake was excellent.  Mikkel noted that it was simple and to the point, with a shot of rum!  Everyone got some to take home... and there's still some in my refrigerator.  The question is, would it be appropriate to take to the office?


The goody bag contained Bajan Coconut Turnovers (for breakfast - I had some the morning after, warmed up, they were nice) and a jar of bajan seasoning which is essentially the seasoning that goes in many of the recipes that I made for dinner (a concoction of onion, garlic, habanero, thyme, parsley, marjoram, curry, lime, vinegar, allspice salt and pepper).  This seasoning is primarily used with fish and meats but also with stews and curries.


Finally, here is the menu with the scores.

Pudding and souse        7.6
Shrimp curry                 7.5
Rum cake                      8.8
Overall Dinner              9.0

My friends loved the company even more than they loved the food and the overall dinner score is reflecting that.  After all, good food is truly excellent when shared with great company!

Next: off to Africa, Cape Verde.

Stay Tuned!