Thursday, January 26, 2017

Goat Water? Banana Soup?

Goat Water
I know it doesn't look great and sounds even worse, but it was fabulous with a hint of clove and cinnamon.  Goat water is similar to beef stew but instead of beef broth and meat you would use goat meat and broth with Caribbean spices as I mentioned earlier.  They also offered Conch Water. Maybe next time.  This was at Dan's our closest commercial establishment here in Buckley Heights.

That was our first local fare. I'd heard of Goat Water but not sure if this is strictly Antiguan or Caribbean. Other than that I haven't found many restaurants offering local fare, instead we've gone to some great entertainment venues with high end menus in the harbors which serve the boating tourists.  So we've enjoyed the great sounds of Asher Otto and ItchyFeet while sipping on Chilean wine and savouring a brick oven pizza, for example.
Yata, Adrienne, Jean and CJ

But I have been enjoying the use of a good kitchen in our AirBnB lodging.  In the back yard we have a papaya tree and some banana plants. The bananas are quite green but green bananas are used here for savory dishes and I made a banana soup.

Banana Soup
serves 4


4 T butter
3-4 cups of pealed and chopped green bananas
2 cups of chopped sweet potato or carrots
1 medium onion diced
2 bay leaves
6 peeled cloves of garlic
8 cups of water or stock (vegetable)
1T  Caribbean curry (turmeric, ginger,cinnamon, cardamon, etc.)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, sweet potato, banana for 7-10 minutes. Add the stock and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer until bananas and potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes). Let cool, and then blend until smooth. Return to low heat.  
Salt and pepper to taste. 
Sprinkle with dash of fresh grated nutmeg and serve.

(2-3 cups of cheddar cheese can also be added in the final reheat to melt.)

Antiguan History

Nelson's Dockyard
In the Southeast corner of the island is a UNESCO Historic site, Nelson's Dockyard, a compound of buildings built in the 18th century by the British to serve the nautical industry, commercial as well as military. It was named in memory of Horatio Nelson of the Battle of Trafalgar. He had spent some time in the area and had married a woman from the nearby island of Nevis.  The Dockyards have been restored and maintained to impeccable standards. Many of the buildings have been converted to hotel, restaurants, and shops.
The pillars
This photo shows one side of a row of pillars. With the other row these twelve foot high erections held up the roof of the boathouse in Nelson's Dockyard.  The concrete cap on top was added to prevent erosion of the pillars. We found a tiny beach between the rows where we spent a few hours reading and relaxing.
Interior of the Officer's Quarters, now an office space at Nelson's Dockyard

Shirley Heights Outpost
High above Nelson's Dockyard Shirley Heights has a stellar view of the bay and harbors below.

A bit of history:
The island was settled over 4000 years ago by Archaic Age fisher/forgers. They are believed to have originated in South America. During the first millennium BC they were displaced by the Arawak also from South America. Europeans arrived in 1493 with settlers arriving in 1632. Most historians credit Edward Warner as the first successful colonizer of the island. African slaves were introduced to build the structures  such as Nelson's Dockyard and Shirley Heights. The main resource that was treasured by Europeans and eventually North Americans, was sugar. The first large scale sugar plantation was established in 1674 causing a vast forest to be eliminated. There were slave uprisings in 1728 and 1736. Slavery was abolished in 1834 but slaves were still economically enslaved to the plantation owners. In 1846 two thousand Portuguese were imported to work the plantations and in the early 1900's Lebanese arrived as 'peddlers'. 
Due to a change in how payment for labor was rewarded in the cane business, the Riot of 9 March 1918 ensued. Many died and the cane planter's decision was reversed. 
The Antigua Trades and Labor Union was instigated in 1938/9 and many workers joined and ushered in better working conditions for the workers. VC Bird, the second president of the union made great strides. The Antigua airport is named in his honor. 
The US Military base opened in 1941 as sugar was declining in importance for the island. 
The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) with its trade union base won nearly all elections and under Bird's administration, Antigua gained independence in association with Great Britain in 1967 and full independence in 1981. 

Don't forget Barbuda!
This smaller island with a population of around 2000 lies thirty miles north of Antigua. With European colonists it was held privately by the Codrington family then as a Crown colony and later as a dependency of Antigua. 

Antigua West Indies: CJ & Adrienne

English Harbor from Shirley Heights
We arrived on Antigua island this last Wednesday, it being Saturday morning now.  Antigua is typical of other Caribbean islands that we've visitied, sunny, colorful and warm.  We're staying at a home in Buckley Heights in the center of this fairly small island about ten miles from all the beaches.  We have a pool and a large comfortable bed where we've been sleeping soundly each night since we arrived. We share this home surrounded by a large verandah overlooking the island and sea with CJ and Adrienne. CJ is a physical therapist for the world champion West Indies Cricket Team.

As I always say, one of my favorite things about travel is meeting people.  Each person you meet has the potential for such amazing life stories.  The downside is that if you compare your own life to these folks your own life can at times come off as dull. CJ's life ( he's in his forties), started in rural Australia on a family farm. He is very athletic and formerly played semi-pro basketball for an Australian team. He actually started when he was only sixteen and played for ten years. He was a guard with an average of 23 points per game.  Eventually he moved on to become a physical therapist to the king of Sri Lanka. There he met his wife a Brit who was working for Princess Diana's initiative clearing land mines from northern Sri Lanka.  CJ is a modest gentleman, lacking in any sort of bluster and we enjoyed watching the Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys last weekend with him. He promises to take us to a cricket match later in our trip and teach us more about that sport. He's also helping Yata write the song "We Speak our Own Lang" contributing colorful Aussie expressions.  For example, referring to something that is ruined, the expression would say it is 'crash'. That confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVoss was crash.

Adrienne, our host, is a high energy African American who grew up in Queens, working in her family business, a restaurant.  She's ambitious and somewhat fearless as she moved here to Antigua after a short vacation, to rent a home and work two jobs.  She's currently renting this home we're in, with three bedrooms. She rents out the other two bedrooms through AirBnB which is how we found it. She loves music and is quite social so she encourages us to go out everyday to hear music or visit the island highlights and drives us there.  English Harbor is an area on the southern coast that has is a tourist and yachter's area. There we found live music in three locations our first night out.  Pretty interesting people watching, trying to imagine people's stories.  Is this angular tan man the owner of one of these yachts in the harbor and the languid young beauties his companions/entertainment?  Or how about the bucktoothed woman in the dowdy attire dancing with the serious faced man; are they on a date? Islanders?  I do like the way people are very diverse here. Color and class seem to be of little concern.  On the other hand, staff in many of the local establishments, not all, but some are so somber and at times downright rude.  We ate in one restaurant where the waitress boldly continued to pick her nose after I caught her eye.  Then when she served the roti with what turned out to be mango chutney which I'm allergic to, and was told, impudently turned and walked away with no concern or possibly disdain. As the saying goes, " You meet all kinds". Again, it's what makes travel interesting. The good with the bad.

A funny story Adrienne tells is how she was driving home from a night of partying, drunk...yes there is no law against driving drunk here, and she had to pee something fierce. Spotting a local cop shop she pulled in, ran in the front door,said, "I have to pee!"  They didn't think it was clean enough for her but she insisted and when she exited, proceeded to befriend the cops in the stations.  She asked them for directions and instead of telling her, gave her a police escort! Later, one of the police officers ran into her socially and told the story of 'how he met Adrienne".  When she goes home to the states, she may need to reacclimate!