#70 The Bahamas: Ow! I cracked my conk!

In my food-obsessed little head, Grenadian oildown is absolutely legendary. The dish is made from breadfruit, meat, and vegetables, simmered in coconut milk until the liquid evaporates and nothing remains besides a coating of coconut oil on the meat and vegetables. Sounds insanely delicious, right? Maybe even delicious enough to fill me with joy and make me cry like a little girl.

never trust a smiling punch can

A year or two ago, a Grenadian friend told me about a bakery called Pop’s that serves oildown on the weekends. Supposedly, the place was located at the corner of Montgomery and Utica in Brooklyn. Trouble is, I googled every possible permutation of “Pop’s” and “Grenadian food,” and came up completely empty. A street-level look at Google maps reveals no Grenadian restaurants anywhere near the corner of Montgomery and Utica. Pop’s was a ghost.

So a few months ago, I decided to just show up on the corner of Montgomery and Utica. Yup, there was indeed a Grenadian bakery there, called Pop Master Delight. Google barely knows that it ever existed, but it was there a few months ago, offering oildown on the weekends. I vowed to return on a weekend, so that I could finally taste the holy grail oildown.

And last weekend, I returned, but Pop’s was closed. The neighbors said they hadn’t seen any signs of Grenadian food in a few weeks. RIP, Pop Master Delight. I really wanted some oildown, but failed. It made me want to cry like a little girl.

Fried stuff! My pain is eased already.

To ease my pain, I decided that I should eat large quantities of fried food and coconut oil from another island nation. Luckily, there was a Bahamian festival going on at The Frying Pan, a bar on a boat docked near Chelsea Piers. And they had fried fish. And something called Goombay Punch.  And they also had the national dish of The Bahamas, cracked conch (pronounced “cracked conk”), which sounds like an new variation on an illicit drug, or maybe an unpleasant injury. (Ow! I cracked my conk!) I have no idea why “conch” is pronounced “conk,” but at least cracked conch tastes better than it sounds.

For $15, the friendly Bahamians fed me a giant combo plate of Bahamian standards: cracked conch, fried grouper, rice and peas, more rice, and some corn. For an extra $2, I picked up a can of Goombay Punch, just because I liked the name.

fried grouper on the left, cracked conch on the right

Conch, in case you’ve never tried it, refers to a number of species of high-spired snails… whatever the hell “high-spired” means. Cracked conch is batter-dipped, deep-fried conch. I can see how it might be awesome if you’re into that sort of thing, but it just reminded me of a rubbery, deep-fried calamari steak. Not bad, but not really my thing. The fried grouper, on the other hand, was ridiculously good, thanks largely to the bits of hot pepper in the wonderfully salty batter.

The rice and peas—arguably the other national dish of The Bahamas—were also phenomenal. The dish consists of rice, pigeon peas (small, roundish black beans), and bits of pork, cooked in coconut milk until the liquid evaporates. Ridiculously tasty stuff… and perhaps not too dissimilar to the mythical Grenadian oildown that made me cry like a little girl earlier in the day.

The Goombay Punch? Not so amazing. I figured that a Caribbean punch would contain lots of fruit. Like, you know, tropical fruits. Nope: Goombay Punch is just water, sugar, yellow food coloring, and chemicals. Delicious!

But the name is awesome, and the dude on the can is pretty cute. And hey, I ate cracked conk and Goombay punch! And that’s awfully fun to say, even if it’s only somewhat inspiring to eat.

mmm... tropical sodium benzoate!

Bahamas Culture Day
, held every September
Frying Pan at Pier 66
26th Street & 12th Avenue, Manhattan
Subway: 23rd Street (A, C, E trains) or Penn Station (1, 2, 3, A, C, E, PATH, LIRR, etc.)

One Response to “#70 The Bahamas: Ow! I cracked my conk!”

  1. Matt says:

    Brother, have you ever seen a picture of a person with a large shell next to their ear because those particular types of very large shell are the type you can “hear the ocean in”? Conch. Same type of large shell you’ve seen a thousand times that can also be made to be played like a bugle? Conch. Ever had squingilli at an Italian American red sauce joint?…You guessed it, conch! Conch fritters are also very common. http://images.sciencedaily.com/2011/03/110322110026-large.jpg

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