Living and cooking in the Bahamas is a memory I will never forget. Not only was it so very beautiful but I fell in love with the people. Their traditions and culture are fascinating and I miss it to this day. My friend Tony has a conch stand called Tony Macaroni's Conch Experience at Taino Beach in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. At this thatch-roofed shack he introduced me to Conch. The first time I ate it I was hooked! I had one day off a week and I made sure I had all my chores done so I could hang out on Sundays at Tony's. Let me try to describe the scene for you. The Conch fisherman would leave live conch on a chain that tony had in the ocean right off the beach, he would wade out and get the conch he needed. He had fresh lobsters and shrimp, fresh fish and conch all roasted in a drum over wood he would gather. But his specialty was his Conch Salad, my mouth waters when I think about it! He sold Kalik beer from the Bahamas and he made this drink called Gully Wash, which tasted SO good and after a few would sneak up and get ya!
My friend Tony
Gully Wash is made by mixing 1/2 liter of good gin, 1/4 liter of coconut rum, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and coconut water to taste. Coconut water comes straight out of the coconut and is wonderful.
My typical and very appreciated Sunday was when I would get down to the beach around noon and go for a swim. Enjoying the water I would catch a smell of the grill being fired up and I knew it was time. Watching him tend to everything was fascinating, what a way to make a living. I always ordered a conch salad first and I could hardly wait for him to make it. He would take a fresh conch and remove the snail from its shell (yes a conch is a sea snail) and clean it, mince it up and put it in a mixing bowl. He would dice up onion, tomato and add it to the bowl, then he would take the juice of a key lime, sour orange and his fiery bird pepper sauce and mix it all together and it was served. I would go sit in the sand with my Kalik beer and devour that bowl of goodness!
Tony would have a cooler full of these aluminum foil packages and some might have mahi, snapper, lobster, conch or what ever he could find fresh off the fisherman, and each package always had different veggies and a compound butter in them. He would put them on the fire and in ten minutes or so they were ready to enjoy.
Tony's Conch Stand
After a half dozen Kaliks and a few Gully Washes I needed some dinner so I would order up and he would hand me my package and it was always delicious. As the sun went down, the bonfire was lit and it was another day in paradise. Experiences like that are treasured and don't come often enough. I haven't been back since I left the islands but as I am writing about it, it seems like I was there yesterday...........