Lately I have been complaining about not getting off the boat. I can only just sit around so long. Deb on the other hand can be perfectly comfortable with reading a book for days on end, or puttering around with little projects. Not me. I need to put feet on the ground and walk around town, or the beach or SOMETHING! So, Deb surprised me by saying she would like to go out to lunch the other day. Wow. OK. Let's go!
We decided to go to a popular place in town. Nice little restaurant with a great view. They are open for lunch and dinner. We weren't sure of the menu but we can always find something to eat. It's a little tough being vegetarians in the Bahamas. Every menu is mostly seafood and very good seafood at that. I told Deb that I was going to start eating seafood again. I got an eye roll for that but I figure once in a while I will splurge and get some fresh crab or shrimp, maybe a fish. Change it up a bit. I'm not a militant vegetarian. I'm flexible. A flexitarian!
We walk up the steps to the bright pink restaurant and we are greeted by the Chef. The Chef is also the Fisherman. Turns out he just docked the boat with his catch. Cool! Today will be the day Pauly eats seafood. "Sit anywhere you like" he says. We grab a table inside and he pours a beer for us. I asked him if he was open for lunch and he said, "I can cook you something." I asked him if he had anything on the menu for vegetarians. "Yes, I can cook some vegetables. Peas and rice. You know." Nice. We sat inside under a fan. Fisherman/Chef went into the kitchen. We sat for a bit. No menu around. Sat some more. FisherChef comes out of the kitchen and goes outside for menus he said. Good. I'm starved. FisherChef comes back without menus and vanishes into the kitchen. Dude comes back out and we get two more beers. I ask him what he's been catching lately. This guy starts telling me he doesn't eat the seafood he catches because it swells his joints. OK. What? He shows me his joints and explains the huge knuckles. Now I'm looking at my hands and the slightly arthritic knuckles look swollen to me. Are they going to get bigger if I eat some of his crab? I start to question my lunch decision. Maybe I'm not so flexible.
Captain Chef takes a seat at a table next to us and we discuss politics and the news of the day. We even discuss religion! Our opinions on many things are different but we nod our heads, shrug shoulders and carry on anyway. It's a good conversation and he's a good guy to shoot the shit with but I'm getting really really hungry now and another beer is going to get me really really stupid. Another woman walks in like she owns the place, and I think she does. Chef excuses himself and says this woman will take care of us. We talked with her and enjoyed her company and half expected her to ask us what we would like for lunch. Nope. She goes into the kitchen and is gone until Chef comes back and she says goodbye. What he hell is going on? Deb starts laughing a little and I'm looking all confused and about to ask if we could eat or should we move on. Another couple walks into the place and asks if they are open for lunch. "Sorry, no. Not today." Huh? Alright. This was fun but we need food. We ask for the check, shake hands and head out. We laughed all the way into town.
There is a take out place at the other end of town. We walk with a purpose because we are STARVING. Mind you it's about ninety degrees and no wind. The Sun was beating down on our sweaty bodies as we walked through the hot streets. On the way we pass the bar we were at a few nights ago. Some woman pops out of the grass hut like place and yells, "We have chicken and mac n cheese! Come on over!" We should have run over there but like an idiot I told her we were going to loop around after the market and she waved OK. I wasn't sure the bar even had a kitchen and I know last time we were there I never saw anyone eating and to be honest she seemed a bit drunk. We hit up the market and noticed the takeout was closed so we decided we didn't want to walk in this heat anymore and the mac n cheese sounded good. So off we went to the bar.
At this point we are probably severely dehydrated and maybe a bit loopy. We get there and step inside where the lady that flagged us down now tells us in a very slurred voice that she is sooo sorry but the kitchen is closed. I guess we looked dejected enough for her to say she would make us something. "You want chicken! What would you like?" Oh, it's OK. "You want ribs! I'll cook you some ribs." No, really that's kind of you but we're vegetarians anyway, so we'll just grab something later.
In a very loud voice she yells, "YOU DON'T EAT MEAT!" The whole bar stops to look. "No meat at all?! No chicken?!" Uh, no. We're fine. We'll just grab a beer and.."YOU DON'T EAT MEAT! What do you eat?!" We uh.."YOU SERIOUSLY DON'T EAT MEAT!" Now the whole bar is staring at us. Even the domino players are looking at us. Oye. There was a moment of silence and then everybody went back to their business and not ours.
The woman introduces herself and tells us she lives across the street. She met up with some Australians and drank way too much today. "I'm Irish you know. Yes, I am. I have a white father, but I got this beautiful black skin". She smiled while she rubbed her skin. I told her it looked good on her. She smiled big and then invited us to a BBQ with the Aussies at her place tomorrow night. "We'll have chicken and ribs and wait, YOU DON'T EAT MEAT?!"
For crying out loud will she just let it go? I said we could bring something and she hugged us and smiled as her family came home and she said she had to go and that she was in trouble. We waved to her kids and husband, who was not exactly smiling back at us. He was definitely scowling.
We took the vegetarian walk of shame to the other end of the bar and ordered a few beers. The whole episode was so bizarre that we started talking and laughing about it for a while and several more beers passed by. Before you know it the sun was setting. Oh boy. We decided that any more brews on these empty stomachs would be hazardous to our health, so we took off for the dinghy.
Now before you start thinking we are two town drunks, you must know that an empty bottle does not alert a bartender to ask if you want another. No. In fact, you could sit there all day without a refill if you do not make eye contact with them. Must be a Bahamian thing. So most of our time there was just talking and chatting until the girl behind the bar made eye contact and I gave her the peace sign. Sometimes she would walk by and smile at me and then look at the empty bottle. Just a nod. No words spoken.
You ever notice how good beers taste on an empty stomach? You ever notice how more potent those beers are? I think that's why the women of the family always tried to feed the boys before they went out on the town. "Have a sandwich before you go!", my Mom would say. You end up with a HUGE sandwich and now you're too stuffed to drink much. Clever they are. The salami breath worked wonders at keeping women away too. Thanks for looking out for me.
It was low tide of course so we had a long climb down the "ladder" to the rubber boat. I say ladder but most times its just rotted planks they found somewhere held together with one or two rusty nails. So us two dehydrated, starved but happy sailors took off for the boat and pretty much just fell onto the cushions exhausted. "We have to eat something." I murmured from my dizzy stupor. I laid there thinking about how at noon we set out to have us a fine lunch overlooking the harbor and ended up walking around town baking in the Sun without food or water until falling into the oasis of beer.
It's tough to eat out in the Bahamas. We're finding out that if you want to eat more than takeout in some of the more remote settlements that you better make reservations ahead of time. They have limited stock on hand so they can't afford to waste any of it. Also note that menus are meaningless. I think they do it for fun. The best thing to do is walk in and ask what's good today. You may or may not get anything. Just sit back and enjoy the moment.
A few more minutes rest and I slapped a pan on the stove and pushed out a few grilled cheese sandwiches and opened a tube of Pringles. That was all I could accomplish at that point. It was an unintentional unhealthy yet fun and exhausting day.