Wally tries his hardest to sample conch fritters, conch chowder — heck, anything conch.
When I travel, I enjoy experiencing authentic traditional cuisine. So when I visited Grand Bahama Island one holiday season, I felt it was my rite of passage to sample conch, a local favorite.
Conch (pronounced “konk”) is similar in texture to a clam. The shells, with their flared, thick outer lip and pink-colored orifice, are commonly sold in souvenir shops. Heck, you’ve probably held one up to your ear to “hear the ocean.”
Technically, they’re sea snails — but I’m afraid that if I say this, no one will want to try them.
You might also recall conch as the shell the boys in Lord of the Flies use as a trumpet to call meetings and the item you had to hold if you wanted to speak — before all hell broke loose. Which brings me to my first meal on the island.
I found a Bahamian restaurant specializing in conch. It was small, no-frills and empty.
Ten minutes later, a skinny girl emerged, handed us menus and disappeared into the back of the restaurant.
Ten minutes later, she returned, presumably to take our order.
“We’ll start with the conch fritters,” I said.
She wrote the order down carefully and disappeared again.
Ten minutes later, she reappeared.
“No conch fritters,” she told us.
I was a bit disappointed, but persistent, so I replied, “We’ll have two cups of the conch chowder then, please.”
She wrote the order down and strolled back to the kitchen.
After another 10-minute lapse, she returned. “No conch chowder,” she said. I was beginning to understand what they mean by “island time.”
Hungry and determined, I scanned the menu and replied, “Oh, OK, we’ll have the crack conch.”
With great concentration, she wrote this down.
As she began to walk away I decided to call her back. “May I ask: Do you have anything conch?”
She shook her head. “No conch. Bad weather.”
This struck me as particularly absurd — not only because she could have told us this half an hour ago, but because the weather in the Bahamas is pretty much gorgeous year-round, with the temp barely fluctuating between the high 70s and the low 80s.
Later in the week, as I was wandering the island, I came upon a man collecting conch. Next to him was a huge pile of the beautiful, pinkish, coral-colored shells. The weather must have improved.
To this day, Duke and I will use that refrain to get a laugh out of each other, like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld: No conch. Bad weather. –Wally