On a recent trip to Cat Island, an out island in the Bahamas, we sought out directions on getting to the windward side of the island. Apparently there were several routes and as it turned out, the road we chose was the one we were told to avoid. We ended up on an abandoned air strip which led us to more dirt roads that led to a spider web of other dirt roads. Deciding on which one to explore became a challenge. Often times, they led to dead ends. We and our rental car were getting discouraged.
Finally, with a shout of “hurrah” we spotted a shallow inlet with hundreds of harvested conch shells heaped up at the water’s edge.
Two derelict boats were near by adding to the picturesque setting.
The shells were magnificent! Each was covered with a thin brown skin that was flaky to the touch. Underside revealed a beautiful pink color, some brighter than others. We selected two to take home.
Back on the main road, we began our search for conch salad. After several stops, we pulled into a small roadside stand that we heard prepared this fresh traditional cerviche like dish as well as conch fritters. After placing our order, the Bahamian reached into a bucket, selecting two live conchs and with his machete made a slit in the top of each shell, releasing the meat inside. It looked like a huge tongue as he pulled it out.
We sat down at a picnic table and watched as the man pounded the flesh to tenderize it.
His wife came out of the other building to bring us two cold Kalik Beers and to visit with us. She said that conch is known to make the weak strong and will help men with “sex power”. We all giggled. We didn’t know it was an aphrodisiac. We continued to watch her husband as he diced the colorful vegetables to mix with the conch meat and then he set it aside to marinate.
We continued our conversation with the friendly wife and through her, we learned of another route across the island that would take us to a bluff overlooking the ocean.
Apparently, a jack of all trades, she stood up as an old car pulled in. Grinning and laughing, she pumped gas from one of two pumps located on the island.
The salad was declared ready to eat. With a second Kalik Beer, we took our time, reviewing our day, and enjoyed eating our conch salad which was a little chewy, but nevertheless tasty.
After our farewells and promising to come back for more conch salad on our next trip, we headed up the road. It became clear that these magnificent shells don’t go to waste. We noticed them all over the island as yard and fence decorations. Some artisans make jewelry out of the porcelain like surface, while others carve it like scrimshaw.
Cat Island. More roads to explore and friendly people to meet.
Next time, we’ll try the conch fritters, too. It’s good to bring an appetite.
1 cup raw conch meat diced small
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup green pepper
¼ cup diced onion
½ cup diced cucumber
2/3 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1/3 cup lemon juice
Hot pepper and salt to taste
Dash of Tabasco
Mix well and let sit for at least 30 minutes
Serve individually on a bed of lettuce or as an appetizer