Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers
Here are a few of these uniquely Barbadian people and products. I’ll start with the man unanimously agreed to be the greatest cricket all rounder the world has ever seen – our National Hero, the Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers. Many consider that he’s also the world’s greatest cricketer in ANY category, but I don’t want to get into arguments with my Australian, English or Indian friends, about their respective heroes. But there can be no argument about the title “The world’s greatest all-rounder ever”.
For the rest we’ll go in alphabetical order. Barbados rum leads the world. We not only started the practice of distilling rum from sugar cane juice almost 400 years ago, but we coined the name rumbullion, abbreviated to rum. After we earned the reputation of producing the world’s greatest rum, with Mount Gay having been in operation for over 300 years and R.L. Seale’s Foursquare Distillery now winning record numbers of gold awards at the world’s spirit festivals. We also have a unique St. Nicholas Abbey New Generation rum, created from syrup instead of molasses.
Black Belly Sheep
Our unique black belly sheep come next. This cross between English and African sheep has little wool, is more fertile than other sheep, and has an exquisite flavour. Sadly, we’ve exported a lot to places like Texas instead of making a fortune from them here.
Cane holes come next. The old-time practice was to dig cane holes a yard wide, in rows in each direction, and plant the canes on the intersection of the ridges. Rain water would pool in the holes, root growth was encouraged and the roots wouldn’t get water-logged when young. It was so successful that other sugar producers came here to study the technique.
Coconut bread is a Bajan delicacy that’s like no other made anywhere. It’s rich in coconut, and the best bakers put a mixture of coconut and sugar down the middle. Baked to a golden brown, with a crusty exterior and a crunchy interior, it’s heaven on earth, especially hot from the oven.
Although our Jamaican friends make lots of things with coconut, they don’t make any bread like this.
Then there are conkies - a mixture of corn meal, coconut, pumpkin and sweet potato, some sugar and spices, cooked in a banana leaf (and for the recipe see Bajan Cooking in a Nutshell, by Sally Miller). It’s a creole mixture of African and Amerindian cuisine, while corn meal cou-cou is one of the best examples of our African heritage. We add okras, unlike the Jamaicans who don’t and simply call it turn-corn.
Next, alphabetically, come ancient dripstones – two huge coral pots, one above the other in a coral stone structure, to purify water. Poured in at the top it dripped through the interstices and into a marble bowl at the bottom. A UWI study showed that they really do purify water polluted with coliform bacteria.
Falernum is a unique Barbadian liqueur, known for some 200 years, made with rum, sugar, lime juice and almond essence. It’s used for the equally unique Bajan cocktail, comprising falernum, rum and Angostura bitters, with ice and well shaken.
Shaddock rind is a unique Bajan candy, and guava cheese is its sweet companion, although a similar but softer concoction is made in Puerto Rico and known as guava paste.
We have one unique reptile, the smallest snake in the world – the endemic Barbados threadsnake (read about it in the A to Z of Barbados Heritage).
Monkeys come next. Most people know a monkey as a primate of the simian order, with Old World and New World monkeys. But we have a unique monkey, a big clay jar with a small neck and a little handle, for keeping water. When the jar isn’t glazed, evaporation from the outside cools the water.
Finally, consider our tuk band – a creole blend of Scottish and African musical traditions in a flute and drum quartet.
There’s your dozen “Bajan t’ings”.