Barbados was known as “The land of the Flying fish.” Today it remains part the island’s official national dish, Flying Fish and Cou-Cou (see below). The once abundant flying fish migrated between the warm coral-filled Atlantic Ocean surrounding the island of Barbados and the plankton-rich outflows of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. Flying fish have remained a coveted delicacy in Barbados. In recent times the flying fish have also been gaining in culinary popularity in other islands.
The most striking feature of the Flying Fish is their pectoral fins, which are unusually large, and enable the fish to take short gliding flights through air, above the surface of the water, in order to escape from predators. Their glides are typically around 50m, but they can use updrafts at the leading edge of waves to cover distances of at least 400m.
Many aspects of Barbadian culture are centered around the flying fish: it is depicted on coins, as sculptures in fountains, in artwork, or even as part of the official logo of the Barbados Tourism Authority, which features a flying fish in flight.
Coo-Coo or Cou-Cou
Consists mainly of cornmeal (Corn flour) and okra (ochroes / lady’s fingers). The cornmeal which comes readily packaged and is available at supermarkets island wide and the okra which is accessible at supermarkets, vegetable markets and home gardens, they are very inexpensive ingredients. It is because these main components are inexpensive that the dish became so common for many residents in Barbados’ early colonial history. Cou-Cou derives from the island’s African ancestry and was a regular meal for those slaves who were brought over from Africa to Barbados.
A unique cooking utensil called a ‘cou-cou stick’ is used in its preparation. A cou-cou stick is made of wood and has a long, flat rectangular shape like a 1 foot long miniature cricket bat. It is believed by Barbadians to be essential in stirring the cou-cou as it takes on a firm texture and the cou-cou stick makes it easier to stir in a large pot. Flying fish are seasoned with green / Bajan Seasoning and are fried or steamed and served with a Creole Sauce.
Saltfish (Cod or Pollock)
The drying of food is the world’s oldest known preservation method, and dried fish has a storage life of several years. Drying preserves many nutrients and is said to make the codfish tastier. Salting became economically feasible during the 17th century, when cheap salt from southern Europe became available to the maritime nations of northern Europe.
The production of salt cod dates back at least 500 years, to the time of the European discoveries of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. It formed a vital item of international commerce between the New and old World, and formed one leg of the so-called triangular trade. Thus it spread around the Atlantic and became a traditional ingredient not only in Northern European cuisine, but also in Mediterranean, West African, Caribbean, and Brazilian cuisines.
In the Caribbean our Fish Cakes tend be made from a batter of Flour, Salted Cod, Seasonings, Eggs and Milk and traditionally fried in a pot or coal pot. In Trinidad they are known as Accra and in Jamaica Salt fish Fritters. In Barbados they are served island wide and are enjoyed at any time of day, but especially with Rum Punch.
They are a favorite at the Waterfront Café along with Frizzled Salt Fish or Creole Salt Fish on our Tuesday night Buffet – see Our Menu page
Breadfruit was originally propagated in Polynesia and it is said that Commanding Lieutenant William Bligh on a quest for cheap, high-energy food sources for British slaves in the Caribbean, collected and distributed the botanical samples collected by HMS Bounty in the late 18th century.
Breadfruit is a staple food in the Caribbean islands. They are very rich in starch and can be eaten once cooked. They are roasted, baked, fried, or boiled. When cooked the taste is described as potato-like, or similar to fresh baked bread (hence the name).
In Barbados we also make Breadfruit Cou-Cou similar to its Cornmeal counterpart and Pickled Breadfruit, both can be enjoyed at the Waterfront Café’s Tuesday night Caribbean Buffet. Whole fruits can be cooked in an open fire, then cored and filled with other foods such as coconut milk, and butter or cooked meats – see Our Menu page