Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!
“John Bartlum” (1814-1871) – oil painting by Alton Lowe
The waters around the Florida Keys were a popular site for many Abaco wreckers. In 1825, however, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Wrecking Act, which stipulated that salvage from any vessel wrecked in American waters must be brought to a U.S. port.
In the years that followed, a number of Abaconians relocated to Key West, then a mostly uninhabited island at the southern end of the chain of Florida Keys.
By 1860, two-thirds of the island’s 3,000 residents were of Bahamian descent, known locally as “Conchs.”
Many Green Turtle Cay natives would be among Key West’s founding families and community leaders, including John Bartlum and William Curry.
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We Bahamians think we know a lot about conch.
Most of us learned to dive conchs before we were tall enough to go on carnival rides. We’ve sat in the warm, shallow water and eaten “scorched” conch — raw and doused in lime juice — fresh from the sea. And we’ve watched as our parents and grandmothers taught us how to fritter, steam and stew our country’s native dish.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article about the Queen Conch — the most common Bahamian conch species — for the current issue of Abaco Life magazine.
While researching this piece, however, I realized just how much I didn’t know. I learned, for example, that a Queen Conch can live up to 30 years! And that in 1883, an event halfway around the globe thrust the Bahamian Queen Conch onto the world stage.
I also discovered something that should disturb us all — Bahamians and visitors alike.
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Fish, chicken, whelks, kerbs (a type of chiton) and, of course, conch — all end up in the stew pots of Bahamian cooks. A cornerstone of Bahamian cuisine and the ultimate comfort food, stew is traditionally served over grits or white rice, or with steamed dumplings known as dough boys.
Bahamian Stewed Conch
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