Barbados—I return every year because this coral island in the West Indies has all the lazy, tropical Caribbean downtime I need.
In fact, I know Barbados so well, I can feel the hot sand of Crane Beach in my sleep.
Right Off the Plane
I always begin each trip with the same ritual—I head straight to the coconut water dealers; those guys standing on the side of the road next to huge piles of green coconut shells.
It’s not so much that I love the taste of coconut water, but I do believe in its health benefits (as do a few A-list celebrities who’ve invested in branded bottled coconut water), including detoxifying the liver.
This is crucial for the next thing I do—drive to Cutters for a tall glass of its legendary rum punch.
Serious Rum Punch
Cutters is a bright yellow deli in St. Philip Parish, just a short walk from the house I always rent.
Owner Roger Goddard makes a serious rum punch and is happy to share his secrets: “One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak,” is his rhyming recipe.
He tops the drink with a good grating of fresh nutmeg, and the result is pure magic (see recipe below).
I recommend drinking one glass of coconut water for each rum punch (US$5) and chasing that combo with a flying fish sandwich (US$7).
I’ve got to admit I’m also smitten with Beverly’s macaroni pie (recipe also below!). Beverly is our housekeeper, and she makes the best macaroni pie I’ve ever had.
Imagine baked macaroni and cheese with a thick layer of melted cheddar on top and dried cranberries sprinkled in.
My first lunch on the island is always this, but if you’re not lucky enough to have a Beverly in your life, you can always find other homey meals at the raucous Oistins Fish Fry.
Oistins Fish Fry
Every Friday night, the market area around the fishing village of Oistins turns into a vast outdoor street party. Here, dozens of vendors hawk fried, grilled and sautéed local delicacies like mahi mahi, kingfish and marlin.
In the past couple of years a bandstand has been erected and the banks of speakers pump out infectious dance music at a volume that makes dancing unavoidable.
After dinner and a show, I often head across the street to Hercules, the 24-hour karaoke bar.
The rest of the days seem to roll by like the surf. At some point, I’ll drift off to the Round House for breakfast (near Bathsheba on the island’s east coast), and then likely take a road trip to the Platinum Coast, where I’ll stop for fish and chips at the Fish Pot in the tiny fishing village of Shermans.
Just about everyone who is anyone in the U.K., from Simon Cowell to Tony Blair, has dined at the Fish Pot, so it’s taken on a very British vibe, serving the platter with minty peas.
At some point I’ll wend my way along the west coast, stopping at Daphne’s for a mojito and Lone Star for a Banks Beer and a swim. And, if I time it just right, down to The Cliff for a sunset cocktail on the patio.
After experiencing all these different tastes, I spend the rest of my vacation happily ensconced on a beach chair, digging my toes into the perfect pink sand of Crane Beach and, of course, drinking plenty of fresh, cold coconut water.
Can't make it to the sunny shores of Barbados? Check out two recipes plucked straight from the source.
Bajan Rum Punch (Inspired by Cutters)
Go easy on this powerfully delicious cocktail.
1 cup unrefined brown sugar
1 cup water
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved.
Allow to cool. Yields 2 cups.
3 cups dark rum
4 cups ice
8 limes, juiced to equal 1 cup
Combine all of the ingredients and pour over ice. Season with several splashes of bitters and grate 1 whole nutmeg into the batch. Stir and garnish with a maraschino cherry and a mint leaf. Makes 8 drinks.
Roundhouse Banana Bread
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
2 cups of mashed, overripe bananas
1 ½ cups flour
1/3 tsp baking soda
2/3 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cream together the butter and sugar until well-mixed. Add the honey and beat until light and smooth.
Add the eggs, one at a time, until mixed. Add the mashed bananas, then mix thoroughly.
Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and combine into the mashed banana mixture.
Butter a 12 x 5-inch loaf tin and pour in the batter. Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Bajan Macaroni Pie
This is a simplified version of Beverly’s famous macaroni pie.
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 tbsp butter
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup milk
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp hot English mustard
1 tsp Bajan hot sauce
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 maraschino cherry
Preheat a moderately hot oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the macaroni until just tender. Drain.
In a large bowl, combine the macaroni, milk, egg, all but 1 cup of the grated cheese, onion powder, mustard, hot sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer to the buttered baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.
Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Serve hot, or at room temperature, with more hot sauce on the side.