Ancient and Bearded

November 9, 2008

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Our resourceful Nomad found Antigua & Barbuda at Pyramid Exotic Bar and Restaurant 3825 White Plains Rd. in the Bronx.  What happened to Angola you ask?  Oh faithless reader, the Nomad had already lined it up for Nov. 9, so she forged ahead not wanting to break our momentum.

ducana2When we walked in, there were maybe three or four people standing around the bar and we were greeted somewhat warily by a tall, solid, serious-looking woman. Noquar timidly asked if they were serving food because it certainly wasn’t apparent.  The room was mostly empty with a live music setup in the front and two folding tables along the wall, the larger of which was being monopolized by a kid and his coloring.  The woman seemed a little confused as she told us they were, in fact, serving food (which, by the way, only happens on Fridays and Saturdays).   “Antiguan food?” we asked.

These two words triggered a warm, broad smile.  She still clearly had no idea how or why we had ended up there but she was thrilled we had. The poor kid and his coloring were promptly cleared from the table and we were installed.  There was no menu, so she listed what she had, and since we had no idea what she was talking about, we afish2sked her to give us three of her favorite dishes.

Ten minutes later, she returned with our food.  First up was ducana, which is basically a pounded then boiled sweet potato and coconut mixture, spiced with nutmeg.  It was served with sides of spinach and saltfish in a tomato-based sauce.  A huge plate of seasoned rice (rice, beans, and various parts of a pig) was followed by a whole grilled fish with boiled vegetables and rice and peas.   She also gave us a bowl of delicious soup/stew called goat water, which tasted like, well…liquid goat, along with some homemade lemonade.

As we started eating, a thin, friendly, middle-aged man approached us and offered us some Antiguan rum, which we eagerly accepted. He returned a short while later and we chatted about cricket and how awful British holidaymakers are.  Vricealda, the woman who both greeted us and cooked our food, came back several times to make sure we were happy.  Toward the end of our meal, when the Nomad finally got around to explaining exactly why we were there, Valda seemed a bit disappointed that Antiguan food was just next on a list of nearly 200 cuisines we were seeking out. That may have been, but as we move deeper into that list and look back on each individual experience, I have no doubt that Valda’s food, generosity, and the warmth of the rum in our bellies will stand out.

We ended Antigua with a trip down the road to Candy’s Bakery, where we picked up a guava tart, a coconut tart, and a raisin loaf for dessert before driving home stuffed and contented.

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