Bahamian Marshfield Fair

Saturday we woke up and it was another windy drizzly day. We needed to do laundry, so Billy loaded up two weeks worth of laundry and headed into town while I stayed behind and cleaned the boat. In between cycles, Billy came out to pick me up. At the Laundromat, together we folded our clothes and carefully packed them into the sacks in which we transported them, and then placed them inside a plastic bag for the ride back to the boat. It was spitting rain and we didn’t want the sacks of clean stuff to get wet. We were done with our chores well before noon, and the grey day lay before us. So we headed back into town and went our separate ways for a while. After I made some phone calls to home and wandered around, I saw Billy sitting with a local Bahamian, shooting the breeze. I went to greet them and noticed a small school bus pull up in front of Exuma Market, the most popular spot in town. It was then that I remembered that the Exuma Agribusiness and Horticultural Expo was today, and for $5 we could ride the bus and see what it was all about. I said, “That’s the bus, wanna go?” and he said “sure!”. Onto the bus and off we went. It was a totally spontaneous decision.

The Expo was about 5 miles out of town, and this was the first time we had explored the northerly direction of the island of Great Exuma. There is not a whole lot to see, as it is not a large or densely populated island, but what you see is very interesting. Humble homes line the road, and occasionally a resort or two. Some of these resorts are active and viable, others are half built and abandoned. We see too many of these pipe dream projects in the Bahamas. We passed the “Home Depot” of Great Exuma, also known as Darville Lumber. We noticed all the lumber in the yard was pressure treated. We passed the “Fish Fry”, a place where you can go to buy fresh or cooked native fish. We saw the desalinization plant. For $5 we saw a lot, and then the bus left us off at the Expo.

Immediately we lost each other, and for the next hour and a half I wondered why I don’t have one of those collars that you can send a zap to ….. aw never mind. I had fun. And so did Billy.

The Expo was like the Marshfield Fair without the carnies, midways and bull shit, and small enough to put under a large tent. Yes, there were livestock on display, carefully sheltered in their pens by palm branches. And there was also a judged fruit and veggie competition which awarded certificates for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes. Local Bahamian vendors cooked food such as conch fritters, conch salad, crawfish salad. Locals also brought their own island grown produce to sell. I made conversation with two women, who were so proud of their beautiful peppers, onions, cabbages, and pumpkins which do not look anything like the pumpkins we grow in New England. They told me they had just cut these huge cabbages that morning, and when I looked at them, the vibrant greenness told me these women were not lying; these were as fresh as you could get. I asked for the smallest one they had, and for $2 I got an enormous head, fresher than I had ever seen in any supermarket. With the perfect fresh onions they had to offer, the cooking possibilities began to unfold in my mind. I asked these friendly ladies about their own cooking ideas, and they went into a lively discussion with each other about the many ways to prepare sautéed cabbage, cole slaw; they seemed to forget I was there, asking…

Parked next to their table was a pick up truck loaded down with much of the same produce, but this man had green bananas. I asked him how much for some bananas, and he said “$2 a hand!” But how many in a hand, I asked? With that question, he laid his hand out against the huge stalk of bananas, and where his hand ended he took his machete and cut off a “hand”. A hand is a unit of measurement. It was about 20 bananas. For $2. I was in farmer’s market heaven. My back pack was getting heavy,and I was getting hungry. So I went to have some conch fritters ($2 for 8 of those greasy suckers) and to wash them down I visited the Girl Guides (Girl Scout) table, where they had so many different kinds of blended juices…grapefruit lemonade, kiwi grape juice, orange cranberry and lemon raspberry ice tea…for $1 I had a huge cup of mango apple juice and went inside a building to listen to a seminar while I ate my lunch. Still no sign of Billy.

Wise choice for me, as the woman giving this talk was demonstrating the art of growing “lettuce substitutes”, seed shoots which could be harvested in just 7 days. She had pea shoots, sunflower shoots, buckwheat lettuce. She let us sample these delicious greens, and totally inspired me to try a different method of sprouting greens than my traditional alfapha and broccoli seeds in a mason jar. She took the time after speaking to the crowd of about 30 people to answer a whole bunch of questions I hammered her with, gave me her email address and some websites for suppliers. When I get home, lordy, lordy, sprouting and fresh greens will take on a new meaning for all you healthy conscious eaters!

I skipped the seminar which was all about changing your diet to one that is all raw and plant based and sat with some Bahamians in the shade, reading the handouts I had picked up. And then I saw Billy. In his hand was his own packet of literature. He had been sitting in on a seminar about farming in the Bahamas, and was very feeling very educated and inspired. He contemplated if we should purchase some land and start growing feed grains, get some goats, cows, chickens… I returned to the Girl Guide table and bought two more cups of their wonderful juice blends. Billy took a sip and asked if he could put rum in it. I suggested maybe we had had enough of the Expo and should look for the bus to take us back to the harbor. As we sat waiting on the stone wall, we noticed a beautiful blonde woman, a fellow cruiser we had seen several times in the previous days. She was dressed in a pretty dress, with a nice hat, matching sweater, carrying a 5’ length of sugar cane purchased at the Expo. She was standing on the side of the road hitchhiking. Cars kept passing her by, and Billy mentioned that he had hitchhiked a few days earlier and got a ride from the first car that passed him. We noted this woman was way cuter than Billy, yet many cars passed her without picking her up. Finally, one stopped, she got in and off they went. Two minutes later, I realized, she had been standing on the wrong side of the road…no wonder no one picked her up!

Back in the harbor, we relocated the boat to Volleyball beach. Billy dinghied over to see if the long time and die hard cruisers would let him play. They did, and I was happy to have the time to myself to concentrate on preparing a meal based on this fantastic cabbage I had purchased. I peeled off the outer leaves, saving ones I could use for parboiling, I sliced the beautiful native grown onions, smashed the garlic, sautéed some ground beef….and then the sun came out. Every cloud in the sky went away. The wind died down to a gentle puff. Recognizing that this was the first moment of calm and sunshine I had felt since arriving to Georgetown, I abandoned the cooking project and went into work stoppage mode. I grabbed my Ipod and yoga mat and hit the bow of the boat. There for the next hour I was lost in the most amazing yoga practice under a sky so clear I could see the crescent moon crisp against the blue afternoon sky. I breathed in gratitude, inhaling deeply, exhaling slowly.

Later, after the sun had set we ate delicious stuffed cabbage leafs for dinner, happy that we weren’t laying out money in town for an unhealthy, overpriced meal. Then we played cribbage. Who care’s who won. It was another blessed day in the Bahamas.

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