Once you are touring the inner towns of some small islands, some offerings are not readily known by outsiders. I had to ask a lot of questions and everywhere I shopped with my ever-present large tote bag, people were very gracious and tried to help me to understand what something was and how to prepare it. For example, Ackee is a bright red fruit when it is ripe. The fruit ripens on the tree and produces black seeds. Do not eat Ackee before it ripens because it will be poisonous. It is served fried with cod fish and onions.
Breadfruit was introduced to Jamaica by Captain Bligh from its native Tahiti. It is a large green fruit which is similar to a potato in texture, but similar to a grapefruit in size and shape. Breadfruit should be cooked and served in the place of other starchy vegetables such as potatoes. We had not seen a breadfruit until we reached the island of Bequia. Callaloo is a leafy spinach-like vegetable that can be cooked like spinach or kale. Chili peppers are plentiful and can be mild to fiery hot, such as Scotch bonnets. Guava is a tropical fruit with over one hundred species, ranging in colors from yellow to green and pink to red. It is used in punches, jams, syrups and even a guava cheese. Fruits of all kinds are plentiful. Before going cruising or, better yet, when you get to the islands, look for a book on the local foods including fruits and vegetables.
Wherever you go, visitthe local merchants. They are very proud of their country and their products. Venezuela is particularly proud of their meats, especially beef. When we were in the town of Lecheries, I was encouraged to go to this very special butcher shop. It is not too far from the marina where we were staying in Puerto La Cruz. We took our dinghy to Plaza Major, tied up and walked to “LA CAVA,” a butcher shop. It was like no other that I had ever seen. There is a long counter with stools to sit on. You tell the butcher what you want, such as a pot roast, chicken breast and so on. He goes back to the refrigerator and brings out several cuts to show you and you then choose one or ask to see others. While you are waiting, you are served a cup of freshly brewed Venezuelan coffee. When you are finished shopping, all of your meat choices are wrapped and tied neatly for you to place in your shopping bag. Very nice.
We were also surprised by the authentic German butcher shop in Colonial Tovar. That is a very interesting town. It was settled by German immigrants to work on the farms and ease the work load once the slaves were freed. They subsequently established a colonial village high up in the mountains. To this day, everything looks Bavarian with Bavarian foods and architecture. The butcher displays his wares for all to enjoy. Also, the restaurants offer authentic Bavarian food.
Venezuela is a very mixed culture influenced by the cultures that have evolved over the centuries from Spanish, to German, to African to Indian to Caribbean. Living there is a culinary delight. Corn is a staple there. It is used to make arepas which are fried or baked corn pancakes served in many ways. A huge variety of fish is eaten all over the country. Prior to raising cattle the Arawks, Caribs and Chibcha Indians had settled along the coasts, and fish was their main dish. There should be no problem provisioning if you visit Venezuela by boat. We were there in the late nineties and many things have changed since time. However, I still have fond remembrances of the towns, the people, and the culture.
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.