Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture. — Mark Kurlansky, Choice Cuts.
So you find yourself studying abroad in the Bahamas and you have the opportunity to sample the local cuisine: a dish you’ve never heard of and can’t recognize. Do you crinkle your nose and politely refuse, or do you dive into that plate of strange food?
Our advice is to go for it. Not only is it considered rude in many cultures to refuse the hospitality of a host, but studying abroad in The Bahamas would not be complete without really getting to know what the locals eat.
Tasty Bites From The Land and Sea
The Sea's Bounty. The Bahamas is comprised of more than 3,000 islands, plus islets, cays and rocks, and is known worldwide for its crystal clear waters. Of course, seafood is going to be on most Bahaman tables.
Of all the sea's bounty served here, the conch is probably the most recognizable, as it is a staple food of the Bahamas. Because the sea snail is listed as “threatened” under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, conch can only be caught and harvested under strict conditions. Restaurants in the Bahamas are known for specialty dishes that include conch chowder, conch salad, conch fritters, and cracked conch.
But that’s not the only seafood on the menu. Bahamians also excel at preparing fish 'n grits using broiled fish seasoned with salted pork, onions, and green pepper: an amazing breakfast alternative. And a typical Bahamian crab salad consists of minced sweet onion, salt, pepper, mayo, and big chunks of real crab meat fresh from the ocean.
Not Your Usual Meat. Never fear, carnivores: Bahamian delicacies also include meat dishes. Two notable examples of meaty local cuisine: curried mutton and raccoon stew. Yes, raccoon stew! Bahamians swear this dish beats any other stew made from more common types of meat. The tender, slightly oily dark meat is cooked with starchy vegetables like carrots, potatoes and turnips, and loaded with enough spices to make your tongue burn for more.
Not adventurous enough for the raccoon? Go ahead and opt for the curried mutton. Goat or sheep mutton seasoned to perfection with curry powder, large chunks of onions, and bay leaves is a must-try dish for those exploring in the local food culture while studying in The Bahamas.
Before and After. A meal is never complete without the appetizer and the dessert. For Bahamians, appetizer consists of souse: a fantastic soupy mix of water, onions, meat, celery, pepper and lime. Souse is complementary to fish 'n grits but goes well with any other non-soup dishes.
For dessert, the Bahamian kitchen offers johnnycakes and guava duff. Bahamian johnnycakes are like a cross between cake and a dense bread, and can be eaten at any point during the day. Guava duff is a heavenly treat made from pulped guava topped with a tantalizing sauce of vanilla, butter, confectioners' sugar and rum.
When you’re studying abroad in The Bahamas, trying the food is a great way to get to know more about the culture and history of your temporary home. Go ahead and dig in!