Following our October detour to Ethiopia, we finally broke into the list of countries beginning with the letter B with a honeymoon getaway to the Bahamas. (We continue to plan our actual honeymoon to Europe in the spring.) Like the English-speaking nations of Antigua and Barbuda and Australia—and many more yet to come in our globetrotting adventures—the Bahamas are a former British colony still ruled by Elizabeth II. Because the Bahamas seemed to share so much with nearby Antigua and Barbuda in terms of their history, language, and geography, we were especially interested to see whether we could figure out some of the differences between the two.
Of all the countries that we’ve visited so far, the Bahamas are in fact the closest to home: some of its numerous islands lie only about fifty miles east of Miami. Jess had even been noticing promotional posters for the Baha Mar Resort, including those above, in South Station. But with the meteorologists declaring that New England was in the grip of a wintery polar vortex, the difference in climate between here and there could not have seemed more stark. While in Boston the weekend’s high temperatures had been forecast to be 42° and 53° Fahrenheit, the sunny Bahamas were expecting highs of 80° and 82°.
Saturday morning begin with some major breakfast preparations. While Jess baked a Bahamian version of johnny cake, which tasted noticeably different from her fried Antiguan version, I got to work preparing a large pot of chicken souse (pronounced like house). This hearty breakfast stew is normally made with a couple dozen chicken wings, but we substituted some vegetarian “chicken” strips instead. Because our souse contained bland rubbery strips instead of actual chicken, it wasn’t as greasy or as flavorful as I imagined the real thing would have been. The johnny cakes were quite tasty, however, and excellent for dipping!
Later that morning, we watched a short video which introduced us to some of the tourist hot spots around Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.
Hoping to enjoy some Caribbean food that was prepared a bit more authentically than my questionable chicken souse, we ate lunch at Some ‘Ting Nice, the Jamaican restaurant in Somerville which you might remember from our visit to Antigua and Barbuda. We realized at the restaurant that the Bahamas (unlike Jamaica, and unlike Antigua and Barbuda) are not actually located in the Caribbean Sea—they’re too far north. But according to our research, the menu seemed similar to what we might find in the Bahamas nonetheless.
Our first course, compliments of the chef, was a spicy chicken soup for me and a spicy vegetable soup for Jess. We slurped the soup down so fast that we forgot to take a picture. For the main course, below, I ordered the roast conch and Jess ordered the Soca special—a vegetarian curry.
The conch is a large sea snail, famous for its elaborate shell. I don’t normally order snails for lunch, but I’d read that conch is a popular meat in the Bahamas and wanted to get the full experience. Thankfully, a whole snail didn’t arrive on my plate—just strips of meat that reminded me of boneless spare ribs. In the photo above, the conch is on the lower left, accompanied by my side dishes of aloo (curried chickpeas and potatoes, lower right) and provisions (cassava, plantains, and yams). Jess’s Soca special appears at the top of the photograph, along with her sides of mashed pumpkin and bammy (a cassava flatbread). You can also see my sorrel drink, and behind it Jess’s passionfruit juice.
That afternoon, to get a better feel for the Bahamian climate (and fauna) even in chilly Boston, we hopped on the orange line and made our way to the New England Aquarium. At the center of the aquarium stands the Giant Ocean Tank, which contains a simulated tropical reef teeming with over one thousand aquatic animals.
We attended a live presentation at the very top of the tank, where we learned that the exhibit is actually designed to resemble the coral reefs found in the Bahamas! You can see the aquarium’s most famous resident, Myrtle, in the next photo.
Near the top of the Giant Ocean Tank we discovered the Yawkey Coral Reef Center, which houses a variety of smaller creatures from the Bahamas. Jess spotted these dwarf seahorses hanging out in one of the tanks:
Just as our trip to the Franklin Park Zoo introduced us to all sorts of animals from Australia, we really enjoyed meeting these native Bahamians face to face.
After dinner, we watch a rather cheesy American film called Eye of the Dolphin (2006), which was filmed on the island of Grand Bahama. Besides its charming plot, the film helped us to understand how the nation’s booming tourism industry sometimes puts its ocean habitats at risk. Here’s the trailer:
The next morning, we settled in for another bowl of my strange chicken souse. The fake strips of “chicken” still tasted nothing like the real thing. To my surprise, however, they now tasted exactly like the rubbery conch that I’d had for lunch the day before! Jess didn’t seem too thrilled at my discovery, but I finished my conch souse with gusto.
It was time to make our Bahamian dessert, a mango duff. We actually used this recipe for guava duff, but I couldn’t find any guavas at the grocery store. After chopping the three mangoes and allowing the dough to sit for a while in the refrigerator, we rolled out the dough, spread the mango over the top, and curled it up like a jelly roll. After making three rolls, we wrapped them in foil and submerged the packets in boiling water.
The duff took so long to boil that we ended up eating lunch as they cooked. We had some more of Jess’s tasty peas and rice dish, while watching this cheerful tourism video about the city of Nassau.
After boiling for about an hour, the mango duff was finally ready to eat. I sliced one of the rolls into spiral discs and drizzled some sweet rum sauce over the top:
As you can see in the photo, some of the mango was a bit pulpy (we both made sure to floss after eating!) but I think our duff came out well.
We ran some errands in the afternoon, but returned in time to continue globetrotting again for dinner. Jess had discovered a Bahamian recipe for macaroni and cheese pie (below) which she paired with some more of her bean and corn salad.
This was a very satisfying meal. In general, the recipes that we found seemed very authentic and down to earth—a pleasant antidote to the very touristy documentary films that we’d been watching throughout the weekend.
We wrapped up our adventures with the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale, parts of which were filmed in the Bahamas, and another helping of the mango duff. We’d been wondering what the differences were between the Bahamas and the country of Antigua and Barbuda, and James Bond helped us to figure out part of it: of all the tropical island nations, each a little paradise on earth, none has captured the world’s imagination like the Bahamas. From its natural beauty to its welcoming inhabitants, the Bahamas made for an ideal globetrotting honeymoon.