Posts Tagged ‘Fernando’s Hideaway’
This past fall I got to spend three weeks on one of the teensier of the constellation of teensy islands that comprise St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A person of average fitness can bike the hilly island in a day with time to spare before the sun sets. There’s a certain distinctive yet casual rhythm to the day, and the days of the week, that’s easily habit forming; a completely laid-back chill vibe and not much of any tourist hustle. The water was so warm that even a cold-averse wimp like me could just plunge right in. Locals would go to the beach and just bob around in the blissfully warm waves and catch up on the day’s gossip. It was just what I was looking for! No decision bigger than whether to snorkel, swim, walk the beach, trundle over to a different beach, or mix it up and hop a local cooperative van into town.
We stayed in Marie Kingston’s sweet little cottage right at the end of idyllic Lower Bay beach. There aren’t any chain hotels here and I hope there never will be. One of the biggest hotels on the island – at least as of this fall – had little more than a dozen rooms. Lodging prices weren’t too bad, especially since we arrived just before tourism season kicked into swing, but stocking our little cottage with food was a pricey proposition due to the high cost of food transport, since little is grown locally. The sea still supplies sustenance from subsistence fishing. Whaling continues as it has for centuries, the islanders are limited by international covenant to just four per season, still chased and caught by a few brave men in traditional whaling dorys.
So I was psyched when about midway through our visit, Jacqueline’s Nature Zone opened. She had just harvested the first of the season’s veggies and herbs on what must be the prettiest garden plot on the planet, right across the skinny two-lane road from the most delectable beach on the island. Jackie’s business is mostly seasonal, dependent on the annual influx of tourists and yachties. Compared to the Carribbean and Bahamas farther north, this is a sleepy part of the western Atlantic so business is rarely described as brisk. A patient woman, Jackie persists, convinced that demand for her locally grown food will steadily increase. She likes knowing where her food is grown, how the plants are nurtured and that they are free of pesticides. Jackie explained that most of the produce in the grocery stores comes from nearby St. Vincent, where she said farmers still drench their crops with powerful pesticides.
Oddly, the locals don’t think much of Jackie’s garden goodness. One exception is Fernando, whose namesake restaurant has a well-deserved reputation as one of the very best on the island. Fernando at his Hideaway
Usually though, when Jackie offers native-born neighbors a sample, they spit it out.
With a diet dominated by canned goods, rice and beans, Jackie’s greens and veggies taste too strange to most locals’ palates. On the contrary, I adored everything she grew. Intriguingly, something in the soil added a hot zing to some of the veggies. Not to miss: Jackie’s crazy good ginger basil pesto! I love to cook, and did so aboard charter sailboats for a couple seasons. As most cooks and chefs agree, nothing beats fully ripened, fresh-picked organic produce, so you can trust me when I say Jackie’s produce is worth seeking out.
Once upon a time, the islanders used to grow more of their own food, though it was no easy task on the freshwater scarce island. A local lady told me that when she was a little girl in the ’60’s, folks used to grow, harvest and process cassava. She described to me the ways they used to cook and process the plant using every bit of it for food, starch and more. She also told me how locals used to grow more corn then, and on Guy Fawkes Day they’d put big giant cassava rendering pots in the middle of town, cove the bottoms with sand, place the the pots over a hot fire and have a giant popcorn celebration.
Cassava and corn and small gardens are rare here today. As more and more modern conveniences arrived on the island, local food productions and traditions withered away. Jackie said the locals think she’s crazy for growing her own food. I think she’s brilliant and I hope she’s there next time I go back.