Seafood is the staple of Bahamian cuisine--especially conch (pronounced konk), the firm, white, peach-fringed meat from a large type of ocean mollusk. Fresh, uncooked conch is delicious; the conch meat is scored with a knife, and lime juice and spices are sprinkled over the meat. It can also be deep-fried (called "cracked conch"), steamed, added to soups, salads, and stews or made into conch chowder and conch fritters. The Bahamian "rock lobster" is a spiny variety without claws that is served broiled, minced or used in salads. Other delicacies include boiled or baked land crabs, which can be seen before they are cooked running across the roads after dark.
Fresh fish also plays a major role in the cooking of The Bahamas--a popular brunch is boiled fish served with grits and when done right, is often the most flavorful way to enjoy the taste of a fresh catch. Stew fish, made with celery, onions, tomatoes and various spices, is another local specialty. Many dishes are accompanied by pigeon peas and rice (the infamous peas'n'rice served throughout the Caribbean), with spices, tomatoes, onions, and bacon added.
Peas also figure prominently in the wide array of fragrant Bahamian soups--pea soup with dumplings and salt beef and the familiar split pea and ham soup are just two of the many pea-based broths. One soup unique to the Caribbean and Bahamas is the souse (pronounced sowse)--the only ingredients are water, onions, lime juice, celery, peppers, and meat; no thickeners are added. The meat added to a souse is often ox-tail or pigs' feet, giving the souse a delicious, rich flavor, new to many visitors.
The cuisine of The Bahamas is never, ever bland. Spicy, subtly and uniquely flavored with local meats and produce, more than any other cuisine in the West Indies, Bahamian cooking has been influenced by the American South. One very popular example of this influence is the "fish'n'grits" mentioned above.
Both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks are a highly-developed specialty in The Bahamas; bars pride themselves on their own special concoctions of rum punch. Kalik, the beer of The Bahamas, is unusually light and wheaty, served well-chilled to wash down the day's heat. The Bahamian refresher of choice is coconut water (not heavier, fattier coconut milk) blended with sweet milk and gin. There is also a drink called Switcher, made with native limes; those who have had it swear that it tastes better than any other citrus drink around.
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