From callaloo soup to nutmeg ice-cream

 ~The flavours of Grenada~

Published in the WEEKender supplement of The Daily Herald 2011

By Sanny Ensing

“This is my favourite dish!” exclaims LIAT’s Corporate Communications Manager Desmond Brown, as a fragrant bowl of deep green callaloo soup is placed in front of him. “If you don’t want yours, I’ll have it,” he laughs, as the rest of the group gingerly poke at their plates with a spoon. Though the green, spinach-like callaloo leaves are customary in many a Caribbean kitchen, the regional journalists agree that callaloo soup is typically Grenadian – and tasty. Brown’s statement is quickly mirrored by the “Ooh’s” and “Aah’s” of those who try this green bisque from the so-lovingly called “spice island.”

The journalists have gathered in Grenada for a media training workshop hosted by Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and LIAT. Flamboyant Hotel, located in the far corner of Grand Anse Bay, is the journalists’ “home away from home” for five days of group workshops and island exploration. Welcomed with friendly words in the hotel’s conference room by CTO head Hugh Riley, Grenada’s Tourism Minister Peter David, Tourism local director Simon Steele and LIAT’s Desmond Brown, the group is off to a good start. For the next four days, facilitator and CTO’s Communications Officer Johnson John Rose will host a multiplicity of news topics, ranging from News Interview and Journalism Ethics to Feature Writing and Crime and Crisis reporting. Johnson will simultaneously critique and assess the various writing sessions, interviews, news stories and features that young Caribbean writers and broadcasters deliver.

Green banana salad, okra and sweet corn, crayfish, papaya with cheese, ginger pork, curried lamb, bread fruit, plantain, eggplant and pumpkin mash – more than 15 traditional dishes are shared amongst the writers as they load their plates at Patrick’s Restaurant. This traditional eatery abounds with the flavour and fragrance of the “isle of spice.” The fare is rich and colourful, much like Grenada’s interior, where green mountains hide plantations of red cocoa beans, yellow stalks of sugarcane are transformed into strong local River’s rum and rainbow eucalyptus hide daring mona monkeys. Grenada is a gem in a region of overdeveloped tourist destinations. It breathes authenticity, boasts a stunning nature and possesses a culture that is fairly untouched.

“We need better cooperation between the private sector and the government,” says Grenada’s Tourism Director Simon Steele, when asked about the island’s challenges concerning cultural and natural heritage preservation. “There is much to offer the tourist, but there remains much to be done to hold onto what we have.” In another interview, Grenada’s Prime Minister makes clear that government is doing its utmost best to support the agricultural sector, especially after the devastation of the passing of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 when 84% of the agricultural sector was destroyed. In order to look after the beauty and bounty of the spice isle, a sustainable tourism plan is needed. That plan must not only include the sponsorship of cultural practices and festivals, but also embrace traditional farming and fishing.

A leisurely sunset stroll along the popular two-mile long Grand Anse Bay reveals a group of local fishermen, some with their wives, repairing nets and cleaning out their boats. They provide a stark contrast set back against a day-cruising catamaran filled to the brim with swaying tourists. “Come out with us in the morning,” the friendly fishermen shout as I stand and watch them go about their tasks. “I wish I could stay a little longer and do just that,” I think, as I walk back down towards the hotel and get ready for another delectable dinner with my Caribbean comrades. That night I celebrate sweet Grenada, with another serving of creamy nutmeg ice-cream, knowing that the hint of spice will linger, and lure me back one day.