In Search of Bahamian Food

 Wally sure would have loved to have tried some conch fritters like these in the Bahamas

Wally sure would have loved to have tried some conch fritters like these in the Bahamas

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.

Technically, they’re sea snails — but I’m afraid that if I say this, no one will want to try them.

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.

 

Shell Shocked

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