Close your eyes and conjure images of the Caribbean. After the powdery sand and aqua blue seas, you might picture a bounty of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables - I know I do. For some reason that's just not the reality in Beautiful Barbados. Don't get me wrong, it is seriously gorgeous and I love living here on every level - except one. Produce.
I don't know what is up with the supply chain but I know things are bad when a visiting girlfriend (Alice...you know who are) shed an actual tear during her first trip to the produce section of my grocery store. She bought absolutely nothing. I know for a fact that the hotels are chock full o' fruit and veg and it has slowly come to irk me that I pay upwards of $9 usd for a pint of strawberries that usually contain at least a few moldy buggers at the bottom.
The conventional wisdom in Ayurveda is to eat locally and seasonally. What happens when there are only 1.5 seasons? As the years roll on it's harder to cope when the only fresh fruit available is mango and even then, only for a few months of the year. Sometimes there are fresh papaya but I'm not a huge fan. Our local bananas are downright depressing when compared with their imported counterparts.
The title of this blog is for reals. It is odd that I spent a lifetime surrounded by abundance and never wanted it. Now that I want it, need it and crave it, it's wilted, moldy and costs a small fortune. The irony is not lost.
Some of this is upbringing. I grew up in Oregon picking berries - Straw, Marion, Rasp, Black, Blue - my tastes lean heavily toward fruits that simply do not grow in the tropics. Paying exorbitant amounts for these imports is just plain bad all the way around. How many resources does it take to get those Driscoll strawberries from California to Barbados? How are any of them not moldy?
I hit the apex of frustration last week when I was tasked with making a huge crockpot of Minestrone soup for work. I swung by "The B" and there were no (drum roll) onions, garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini or mushrooms and the only fresh herb was parsley. Defeated, dejected - I left the store with nothing but vegetable stock and a crowd of hungry people waiting for me in a mere 18 hours.
When I returned home I turned on the news to watch a story about the uprising in Cairo and it's effect on tourism. The camera panned across a market that is usually filled with tourists and (what!) there must have been an acre of stalls packed with fresh fruit and vegetables. All I could think was "In the middle of a revolution in the dessert of the Middle East there are more fresh fruit and vegetables than in The B!" How is this possible?
Reluctantly, I headed north to a Costco-esque store where I had let my membership expire because "it's too far away". Reality check - I'm turning Bajan. It's only a 10 minute drive from work but it might as well be 100 miles away once you've lived here for while. Lo and behold - I hit the mother load of fruits and vegetables! Where have they been hiding all this food and who has the magic wand? Clearly, I went nuts.
I've made gorgeous food for the past three days and can literally feel the nutrients hitting my system. Thank you Pricesmart - may your shelves be ever abundant. I will never let my membership lie dormant again.
To my friends abroad - never ever take your fresh food for granted.