Healthy Bahamian Cooking Need Not Be An Oxymoron

One of my goals over the past few years has been learning to prepare more traditional Bahamian dishes. So I was excited to learn that my cousins, Marguerite Sawyer Mendelson, and her daughter, Marie Sawyer Ochs, were penning a new Bahamian cookbook.

Marguerite Sawyer Mendelson, Me, Marie Sawyer Ochs

Marguerite Sawyer Mendelson, Me, Marie Sawyer Ochs

Back in the 1970s, Marguerite and her friend, Marie Mendelson, wrote Gourmet Bahamian Cooking, which soon became – and has remained – the best-selling Bahamian cookbook to date.

Healthier Bahamian Cuisine - editedIn recent years, Marguerite and her daughter Marie have developed many new recipes and made over some Bahamian classics, utilizing healthier cooking methods and ingredients – baking instead of frying, choosing  brown rice and whole-wheat flour and pasta, and using low-fat and low-sodium ingredients that simply weren’t available to previous generations of Bahamian cooks. They’ve gathered their very favourite dishes in a new recipe book, entitled Healthier Bahamian Cuisine.

In addition to traditional island fare such as conch fritters, chicken souse, peas ‘n rice, baked macaroni and cheese, stewed conch and johnny cake, Healthier Bahamian Cuisine includes many new favourites, like conch tacos, Abaco jambalaya, spicy coconut chicken, pork chops with guava jam, brown rice salad and mandarin orange cake.

Though not all the recipes are low-cal, this book will definitely get you thinking about how many Bahamian dishes — which, let’s face it, aren’t exactly known for being waistline-friendly! — can be adapted to support a healthier lifestyle.

To order Healthier Bahamian Cuisine, email bahamiancuisine@att.net or visit Marguerite’s booth at the upcoming Island Roots Heritage Festival, May 2-4 in Green Turtle Cay. Book price is $21, plus postage, if applicable.

Island Roots Heritage Festival 2014

Less than two weeks until the next Island Roots festival! Hope to see you there. If you haven’t booked your flight yet, I hear Silver Air is having a last-minute seat sale.

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A Few Updates…

Tom and I are back on Green Turtle Cay, and excited to continue with our Fish Hooks restoration. We’ve got lots of projects planned for the next few weeks and will be posting updates as we go.

In the meantime, here are some follow ups to previous blog posts:

Another Island Home Saved…

We finally got to meet our new Green Turtle Cay neighbors, Drew and Penny Roberts, whose recently restored home, Salty Dog, is just around the corner from Fish Hooks. I posted last trip about how beautiful their island home looks now that it’s been restored. Judging from the photos below, which Drew recently sent to me, the interior is just as charming. For more information, or to rent Salty Dog, call (242) 365-4047.

M/Y Myeerah…

Recently, I received a gracious note from the captain of the M/Y Myeerah. As you may recall from an earlier blog post, we encountered the Myeerah last May, on what was no doubt one of Captain Ben’s least favourite days in his twelve years on the job.

Since publishing the original Myeerah piece, I’ve learned from a number of GTC folks that vessels routinely run into trouble at the entrance to Black Sound. Turns out the channel markings aren’t as clear as they could be, and many mariners realize too late that what appears to be a marker is in fact just a boat rental sign.

Hopefully, knowing this is an all-too-common mishap gives Captain Ben and his fellow Myeerah crew members a bit of comfort as they sail on to fairer seas.

Mo-Mo’s Suga’ Shack…

Now that we’re back on the cay, we’ve noticed the lights burning well into the night at Mo-Mo’s Suga’ Shack. Mo-Mo (aka Melissa Albury) reports that the bakery, which opened this past February, is doing well and keeping her busy.

She’s recently added coconut bread and quiche to her menu, and established store hours as follows: Monday through Thursday: 7am – 9pm, Friday: 7am – 9:30pm, Saturday: 9am – 10pm, Sunday: Closed.

Do You Recognize These Folks?

Bahamas, Abaco, Green Turtle Cay, History, Genaeology, PhotographMy cousin Evan Lowe (grandson of Pa Herman’s sister, Aunt Bessie) recently sent me this image. Evan is 99% sure that the woman on the right is his grandmother, Bessie Caroline Curry Lowe (b. 1903, Green Turtle Cay), but he’d like to confirm this and identify the other people in the photo.

If you recognize any of these people and/or you recognize the setting where the picture was taken, please let me know. Thanks!

TODAY ONLY: Shop Amazon, They’ll Donate $5 to Potcake Rescue Program

An update to my recent post about the plight of the Bahamian potcake

If you’re shopping on Amazon today, please do so via this link to AmazonSmile. If you do, Amazon will automatically donate $5 to Royal Potcake Rescue USA, at no cost to you.

Potcake 1I hadn’t heard of AmazonSmile before now, but it’s a great program that lets you to support your favourite charity while you shop Amazon.com. You get access to Amazon’s normal selection, prices and shopping experience, but Amazon donates o.5% of your purchase price to the charity of your choice. What could be easier?

A percentage of your sales will be donated to Royal Potcake Rescue any time you shop through AmazonSmile.

As an added bonus just for today, however, Amazon will contribute $5 per purchase to RPR. You get stuff you were going to buy anyway, and the potcake rescue program gets $5. It’s a real win-win.

A reminder also that there are only 4 days left to donate to the Indiegogo online fundraiser supporting the upcoming potcake spay/neuter clinic in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. If you can contribute – even if it’s just a few dollars – please do!

P.S. Both the pups pictured in this post are available for adoption through Royal Potcake Rescue.

Potcake 2

The Plight of the Bahamian Potcake

Despite how it sounds, potcakes have nothing to do with illicit substances. They’re mixed-breed, indigenous dogs from the Bahamas or the Turks & Caicos islands.

Bahamian Potcake, Dog, BahamasNobody knows for sure where the name originated, but many Bahamians believe it came from the thick, leftover mixture remaining at the bottom of a pot of rice after multiple reheatings. This “potcake,” as it was known, was often fed to stray mutts.Potcakes  (6)

Given the relatively small gene pool from which they evolved, many potcakes exhibit similar traits. Typically, they’re slim, short-haired, medium-size hounds. Most are tan, brown, black or some combination thereof.

Though strays can weigh as little as 25 pounds, a healthy, well-cared-for potcake weighs 35-50 pounds. As any potcake owner will attest, they’re lovely and loving dogs, with beautiful features and gentle temperaments.

It’s said that there are more than 5,000 stray potcakes roaming the streets in Nassau, and another 2,500 stray and/or unaltered dogs on Abaco and its cays. It’s heartbreakingly common to see these malnourished strays foraging for food and water alongside the road.

Potcakes  (4)Fortunately, a number of organizations, including Royal Potcake Rescue USA, Potcake Rescue Bahamas, the Humane Society of Grand Bahama, Abaco Shelter, the Bahamas Alliance for Animal Rights and Kindness (BAARK), Operation Potcake and the Hope Town Humane Society are working to improve the plight of the potcake. They rescue strays, spay/neuter them, provide medical care and find them forever homes – not just in the Bahamas, but in the U.S., Canada and beyond.

Potcakes  (9)To help control and reduce Abaco’s potcake population, Royal Potcake Rescue USA (“RPR”), BAARK, Abaco Shelter, the Hope Town Humane Society and Abaco veterinarian, Dr. Derrick Bailey, are teaming up to hold a spay/neuter clinic in Marsh Harbour April 25-27. Their goal is to spay/neuter 250 potcakes — 100 more than were sterilized during a similar clinic held this past October.

Several veterinarians will travel from Nassau to Abaco on their own time and provide services and supplies at significantly reduced prices. Aside from medical staff, the clinic will be manned by Bahamian and American volunteers. Total cost per animal will be approximately $50, or $12,500 total.

To raise these funds, RPR is undertaking several initiatives. They still have a fair way to go to achieve their fundraising goal, so please, please help if you can.

Here’s how:

DONATE through Royal Potcake Rescue’s Bahamas, Potcakeonline Indiegogo fundraising campaign, which runs until April 3, 2014.

RPR is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit pet rescue organization, meaning American donors will receive tax receipts for donations. Depending on the level at which you donate, you could also receive an exclusive Potcakes of Abaco bumper sticker, can cooler, T-shirt or tote bag.

Donations can also be made through RPR’s website or mailed to: Royal Potcake Rescue USA, PO Box 56050, Atlanta, GA 30343.

VOLUNTEER at the April spay/neuter clinic. RPR relies on volunteers to help with trapping, transporting, vet assistance, recovery, cleaning, record-keeping and other tasks. If you’re interested in an enjoyable and rewarding “spaycation”, here’s the volunteer application.

Potcakes  (1)TRANSPORT A POTCAKE back to the U.S. If you’re traveling from Abaco to Florida or Atlanta, you can help by bringing a potcake puppy back with you. RPR looks after all paperwork and provides the carrier. All you have to do is bring the pup (which usually weighs 10 lbs or less), in its carrier onto the plane and keep it under the seat in front of you during the flight. A RPR volunteer will meet you at the airport to collect the puppy and deliver it to its foster or forever home. For more information, visit RPR’s How You Can Help page.

FOSTER A POTCAKE. If you live in or near Atlanta, GA, consider fostering a potcake until its forever home can be found. RPR takes care of all medical costs — all you have to do is provide a home, the day-to-day basics and lots of love. If you’re in Florida and can pick up a potcake pup at the airport, you could foster him/her for a short period of time until RPR can arrange to get the dog back to Atlanta. For more information, visit RPR’s How You Can Help page.

Should you need a bit more motivation to lend a hand, here are just a few of the potcakes currently available for adoption through Royal Potcake Rescue USA and Potcake Rescue Bahamas. Who could say no to these adorable faces?

Photos courtesy of Royal Potcake Rescue USA and Potcake Rescue Bahamas.

Next time: Adopting Your Own Bahamian Potcake

The Story of the Albert Lowe Museum

During my last visit to Green Turtle Cay, I had a long chat with Bahamian artist Alton Lowe about the Albert Lowe Museum — specifically, the structure in which it’s housed. Turns out that the museum building’s history is as fascinating as the artifacts displayed inside.

Albert Lowe Museum, Abaco, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

Albert Lowe Museum, Green Turtle Cay

Built in 1825 by the Roberts family (who owned a department store on the property where Sid’s Grocery is now located), this two-story Loyalist home features traditional gingerbread-trimmed porches, dormer windows and one of the only cellars on the cay.

Upstairs Bedroom at Museum

Upstairs Bedroom in the Albert Lowe Museum
Photo by Tom Walters

As was common at the time, the house has a separate kitchen building (which remains fully functional), as well as a four-hole latrine. The latter was an indication of the family’s wealth, since it offered correctly sized holes for men, women and children.

Kitchen Building

Separate Kitchen and Latrine Building – Albert Lowe Museum

During the 19th century, when wrecking was a mainstay of the local economy, goods salvaged from shipwrecks were stored in and sold from the house’s cellar (which now serves as the museum’s Wrecker’s Gallery.)

Later in the 19th century, future British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain lived here as a young man prior to purchasing his own home on the cay.

E. Willis Bethel Photo: Albert Lowe Museum

E. Willis Bethel
Photo: Albert Lowe Museum

And in the early 20th century, when merchant ships sailed from New Plymouth to New York packed with pineapples and returned laden with dry goods and other supplies, the stars and stripes flew over the house’s porch as it served as residence and office for U.S. Consul, E. Willis Bethel.

When the 1932 hurricane demolished New Plymouth’s library, this house – one of just a handful of structures in the settlement to survive the storm – served as a library until a new one could be built.

Sadly, by the mid-1970s, the Roberts house had fallen into disrepair. It was being rented out as office space when Alton purchased the home and set about its restoration.

He scoured the Bahamas for architectural elements – like porch spindles from a historic home in Nassau – that were true to the house’s vintage, as well as historically accurate reproduction pieces – such as gingerbread trim, hand-made by his brother, Leonard Lowe.

A year later, before Bahamian, American and British dignitaries and hundreds of onlookers, Alton opened the Albert Lowe Museum — the first museum in the Bahamas.

Sir Clement Maynard Cuts Ribbon

Alton Lowe looks on as the Hon. Clement Maynard, Bahamas Minister of Tourism,
cuts the ribbon to open the Albert Lowe Museum.

Named in honour of Alton’s father, a well-known model ship maker, the museum’s mission was to preserve Bahamian and Abaconian history and serve as an educational tool for young Bahamians.

Opening Day, Albert Lowe Museum Photo: Albert Lowe Museum

Opening Day, Albert Lowe Museum
Photo: Albert Lowe Museum

Today, the museum showcases three centuries’ worth of paintings, sculptures, writings, models, photographs and other artifacts documenting the lives of the Lucayan Indians who first inhabited these islands, and the Loyalists and their slaves who settled here after fleeing post-revolutionary America.

It’s a diverse and fascinating collection, housed in a building that’s played a key role in New Plymouth history for nearly 200 years.

Model ship by Albert Lowe, on display in the museum

Model ship by Albert Lowe on display at the museum
Photo by Tom Walters

No Prescription Necessary

In the days leading up to the big move, we faced more than a few stressful moments. Whenever nerves began getting the better of me, I’d load Wrigley onto the golf cart and head for Bita Bay. Is there a sedative on the planet as effective as sunshine, salt air and seeing a smiling dog sprint joyfully down the beach?

Related Posts: And Your Little Dog, Too

Green Turtle Cay 101: Staying Here

This is the third installment in the Green Turtle Cay 101 series. For parts one and two, see: Green Turtle Cay 101: An Introduction and Green Turtle Cay 101: Getting Here.

Despite its diminutive size (it’s 3 miles, end to end), Green Turtle Cay offers a varied selection of accommodation options.

GTC Map with ResortsAt the north end of the island are two small resorts, the Green Turtle Club and Bluff House. Each offers a marina, on-site dining, a gift shop, small beach and swimming pool.

The Green Turtle Club

The Green Turtle Club

Numerous vacation rentals are also available, ranging from cheap-and-cheerful efficiency apartments to family- and pet-friendly cottages and expansive luxury villas.

If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, consider renting a cottage or apartment within the New Plymouth settlement. Not only will you be within easy walking distance of shops and restaurants, but you’ll be able to get acquainted with the local folks, who are incredibly warm and welcoming. You can pop over to the local bakery for coffee and breakfast pastries, challenge the local kids to a basketball game after school, and watch the ferry come and go as you enjoy a meal or cool drink on your porch.

New Plymouth's Ma Masie's Cottage, decorated for the holidays

New Plymouth’s Ma Mazie’s Cottage, decorated for the holidays

If on the other hand, your dream vacation involves stepping right out the door onto a pristine beach, or going for days without seeing another human being, you’d probably prefer accommodations outside the settlement. (Note that this will necessitate renting a golf cart if you’d like to explore the cay or spend time in town.)

Sandy Bay House

Sandy Bay House, Gillam Bay

Wherever you choose to stay, here are a few things you should know:

  • Most Bahamian resorts, rental agents and vacation home owners collect a 10% resort tax, which is remitted to the government. Some also levy a 4% Out Island Promotion Board fee.
  • At your request, local grocery and liquor stores will stock your rental before you arrive. This is especially convenient if you’re arriving late in the day or on a Sunday. Your rental agent can assist in making arrangements.
  • Since many visitors (like Tom and me) relish the idea of unplugging completely, some Green Turtle Cay rentals don’t offer Internet service or televisions. A handful don’t even have telephones. You may want to confirm in advance which amenities are included with potential rentals.
Maranatha Cottage, New Plymouth

Maranatha Cottage, New Plymouth

For more information about accommodations in Green Turtle Cay, visit:

You’ll also find Green Turtle Cay vacation rentals listed on VRBO, Home Away and other similar websites.

If I’ve overlooked your favourite place to stay on the cay, drop me a note!

Next up: Eating Here.

Island Roots Fundraiser This Saturday

If you’re on Green Turtle Cay this Saturday evening, March 8, don’t forget to stop by the basketball court and support the Island Roots Heritage Festival Committee. Here are more details about the event:

IRHF Cookout Flyer