I was recently lucky enough to holiday in Barbados… where the daily temperature was around 28ºC (Sorry!). Aside from the obvious benefits, the island has a rich heritage, complex history and fascinating food culture – which all weave together to make an amazing tapestry.
During our time on Barbados we shopped local and at supermarkets, visited (outside) food halls and markets and of course dined out. We also visited a couple of farms, met the growers, and enjoyed lots of traditional dishes.
Shopping local is very much what Bajans do. Many farmers, including the sweet potato farmer we met, sell their produce to people living near the farm and you often saw stalls by the roadside with produce that would have been grown nearby.
The island’s climate lends itself to a variety of crops from sweet potatoes, to tomatoes, and okra alongside sugar cane. There are 14 dairy farms and we saw cattle enjoying some lush grazing.
There were also several fresh fish stalls across the island and we visited Oistins the very popular fish market, where on Fridays Bajans and tourists congregate to tuck into food from a host of stalls against a back drop of music and live entertainment.
Barbados does though import a substantial amount of its food – with a value in the millions. Bajans trust US and British brands – which was evident when we visited a branch of Massy, which is in a partnership with Waitrose. Here you can buy a good range of Waitrose produce – from marmalade to mince pies, pasta and cereals. Not cheap obviously, especially given the current exchange rate, but clearly valued by both the local community and tourists. For me though the fresh produce selection both in Massy and another supermarket, Carlton, were disappointing in terms of range and quality – and we were told that was not unusual and the supplies were inconsistent.
Sugar plays an important part in the Bajan diet and we were told that as a result, diabetes is a substantial public health challenge. I found cocktails could be on the sweet side and sugar free soft drinks were hard to find.
We joined a tour of food stalls and markets in Bridgetown which also covered some of the island’s history – it was fascinating to learn that George Washington visited Barbados as a very young man and was really impressed with the sustainable farming practices he saw on the island and which he took back to Virginia. During the tour we visited one of the famous food stalls, ‘Legendary fish cakes’ and tried some traditional bakery – including the very aptly named ‘rock cakes!’
I also experienced Pudding and Souse – a dish made with sweet potatoes and pickled pork, traditionally enjoyed by Bajans on Saturday mornings.
Alongside trying local dishes, we also visited some of the islands more well-known restaurants – with varying degrees of success. For anyone planning a visit to Barbados my recommendations are definitely The Fish Pot, Local And Co and Lone Star - which unlike some of the other higher end restaurants at least met expectations!
A trip to Barbados would of course not be complete without rum! For those who like a factory tour – I would recommend visiting Foursquare. Here you simply follow the signs from the entrance into the production facility and wander round at your leisure – then, if you choose, you can buy a rum tasting. Very low key but still family-owned and authentic. Their brands include Doorly’s and Seale’s
There are countless rum shacks on the island – many with stunning views and some serving very good food too – like Joe’s on the east coast, which serves a great fish cutter sandwich!
All in all, Barbados’ climate, scenery, heritage, and food culture make this a brilliant holiday destination!