Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Queen conch salad

From the minute I touched down in Nassau from Miami I could feel the expectation in the air. The runway shimmered in the heat as I climbed aboard the South Coast twin prop and I edged into my seat and marveled at the sheer beauty of the view all the way to Eleuthera. This is where the full impact took my breath away. The thin strip of land that had so badly been hit by the hurricane only 2 weeks ago lay waiting for me to taste the spirit of the Bahamas and also blast me with a full force of heat to be reckoned with as I walked down the steps of the plane and struggled to breath for a few seconds. I had arrived and after the swift water taxi deposited me at the harbour itself I then took a golf cart to Tingum Village the hotel where I was to stay these 4 nights.
I propped my guitar case in the corner of the room and took to the sandy broken road and walked to the harbour past wooden shacks and sumptuous mansions side by side. The winds had torn up the coconut trees and ripped up the roads and work was being done none stop to return it to its former beauty.
Three streets down and the sea introduced itself to me once more and in the distance a tiny shack appeared to have activity going on around it so I made my way over. The locals were laughing and joking, drinking beer and smiling broadly at the incoming stranger. I looked to the back of the shack and there she was, Queen Conch. She was standing with knife in hand chopping up tomatoes,cucumber,onion,limes and conch in such small pieces that would make up the famous salad. She was beautiful. Her complexion shone around her and her ever present smile warmed you like no other. She would stand here all day making up the snack for all that came to her and she would joke with you or tell tales of island life and I was transfixed. After I had eaten she beckoned me to her and took me out the back to where the jetty was and pointed to underneath where a handsome man was throwing conch shells onto a pile that was growing by the minute. He showed me the technique of hammereing the end of the conch and then ,with a very sharp knife, there was a slick action that pulled the muscle out. It was alive and was moving in his hand. He winked at me and then proceeded to pull out four small strips like worms that were wriggling. He told me it was an aphrodisiac and I let them slide down my throat wondering what on earth I was doing.
That night I remember feeling so well and full of energy despite my long journey. The hours went by from bar to bar until in the very early hours I found myself alone and sitting on the deserted beach whereupon I took off my clothes and in the reflection of the full moon I swam in what felt like a dream.
I went back two days running to sample the Queens delicious dish and will always remember, beer in hand and live shell fish in my mouth, what a privilege it had been and a memory I will always keep.
Queen Conch salad.

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