The busy roads in Barbados are eerily quiet on bank holidays. The normal traffic with vans blaring their obnoxious horns looking for riders, large buses rushing by, a constant flow of cars and people walking which usually start about 6:00 a.m. are all mysteriously missing.
I enjoy the solitude but I know behind closed doors, many families are feverishly preparing for the afternoon picnics all across the island! The usual spots are the beaches that surround our beautiful island but there are also parks throughout the island where people gather together for picnics. Some of the more popular locations are Miami Beach (which is near me), Browns Beach, Bath, Bathsheba, Barclays Park, Farley Hill, Three Houses and King George Park.
The reason to have a picnic at the beach is obvious but the benefits of having a picnic at a park includes nearby food places and bathroom facilities. Unfortunately for the ladies, lines for the rest room tend to be longer than the men’s room like it is at most venues in the US or anywhere else. However, women in Barbados do not hesitate to take over the men’s bathroom! The first time it happened to me I said “Oops, sorry, I’m in the wrong room!” I reentered after backing out and verifying that I was in the right place. Part of my confusion was that the women were inside, in front of the mirror putting on lip gloss and holding conversations! It’s one thing to discreetly use the men’s room, but they had taken it over! In fact, I had to excuse myself to get to the sink to wash my hands! They did move but continued their conversation as if I wasn’t there. Only in Barbados!
My favorite kind of picnic is an island tour church picnic. The bus was carefully loaded with large pots and pans containing food, I was told “Mek sure wanna hol dis properly!” Next, the tables, chairs, drinks and ice were loaded then we set off on a narrated historic tour of the island. One of the many things I learned on the tour was that when the British sent ships to the island for sugar cane, they would balance the empty vessels with bricks that were later used to build the buildings at and around the Garrison. About half way through the tour we stopped unloaded the food, drinks and table cloths and had a nice picnic at Barclays Park on the East Coast Road.
The foods found at a Bajan picnic are colorful, flavorful and plentiful. People line up and are served heaping plates piled high with macaroni pie, rice and peas, beef stew, potato salad, fried fish, chicken, some pork from the large pots and pans of food prepared early in the morning along with tuna and cheese sandwiches. Drinks include ice cold mauby, ice tea, lemonade and Banks Beer (no beer on the church picnic of course). The meal is usually finished off with sweet bread and cake.
I went to a Sunday School picnic at church and expected US type food for the kids. When little 2 year old Abby went in line and was asked “Wha ya wan sweetie?” Abby said “I want food!” The server asked if she wanted cake, or cookies and Abby with her head tilted upward shook her head no. The server asked if she wanted a sandwich or fish cake again Abby shook her head no. “Well whatcha wan dahlin” she asked? Abby said even louder, “I want FOOD!” “Okay baby” the server said and walked Abby to the rice and peas, macaroni pie and chicken at the end of the table and asked “Dis wha you wan?” Abby shook her head affirmative and smiled, she wanted food, real food!
I was surprised that there was no pizza, chips, soda, hamburger or hotdogs which are all standard children’s food in the US. There was no junk food, only regular food! When I went to the grocery store a few days after the cookout I couldn’t believe it, a pack of 21 Hebrew National hotdogs is $66, now I understand why they stick with regular food.
People in the US normally have cookouts in the spring, summer fall holidays and special occasions. You can often see and hear parties throughout the neighborhoods during these events. The food usually consist of chicken, ribs, burgers and hotdogs with sides of potato salad, baked beans and chips. There are usually lively games corn holes, bocce, dominoes or lawn darts and music booming from the sound systems.
Given a choice, which would I choose? I’m not sure, which would you choose?