March 6, 2015- Ostins Fish Fry-Christ Church, Barbados, West Indies
Very often, to use the old cliché, less is more. I’ve always found that some of the best food and best fun can be found at festivals, tastings and the like. Nothing fancy and no snob appeal regardless of what food and drink is offered. Time after time, no place does this better than the Friday night fish fry at Oistins. Yes, it’s crowded, yes there are a lot of drunks-although very well-mannered I must say- and from my experiences I’ve always run into a period of rain. After many trips to Barbados that seems to be a constant. Kind of weird considering that Barbados consistently has some the world’s best weather. Maybe it’s some sort of message like “get off our island; you’ve consumed too much rum and eaten too much fish”…well, probably not but then again-crap, I’m rambling for a change…back to business. To call it a “fish fry” is a bit misleading. Although you can find fried Flying Fish or fried whole Red Snapper, more dishes than not are grilled to perfection. The very fresh choices are many and vary by season and vendor, Mahi-mahi, Kingfish (aka Wahoo), tuna, swordfish, shrimp…. Most commonly they’re marinated in “secret” concoction that I conjecture is a mix of lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper, yellow hot sauce and oil-no, it’s not too hot unless you have absolutely no tolerance for hot pepper. Couple this with sides like macaroni pie (basically baked macaroni and cheese), rice and peas (beans), breadfruit or plantain and you have a great meal usually for under $20.00 USD. Of course there is the alcohol, a cold Bank’s beer, rum and the hallucinogenic rum punch. This potent but delicious mixture of rum, lime juice, bitters, simple syrup and nutmeg can send you spinning without notice. Be careful, a rum punch hangover resembles someone beating a bass drum in your head while someone else squeezes with a vice from the outside….they don’t pass quickly either! While everyone seems to have a favorite vendor for food and another for booze, I’ve honestly never had a bad experience with any.
Comestibles and intoxicants well in hand, we must move to the entertainment. Talk about a dichotomy. On the “main” stage you’ll find a DJ pumping out modern grooves. It’s fun to watch the drunk, slightly less drunk and occasional sobriety case get up on stage-I’m far too pathetic in this area to ever consider joining in. Around the back you’ll find the “old time” dancing area. Both young and old, some men even dressed in suits, take turn swaying to the music. It hard to describe but every tune seems to resemble 1950s easy listening music. No matter, everyone seemed to be having a good time.
No night at Oistins would be complete without vising the vendors. Nothing high-end and mostly aimed at tourists looking for t-shirts, sandals and inexpensive craft jewelry. The one exception is an artist who creatively combines wire, screen, pieces of hose and few other miscellaneous items to depict scenes of island life like, limbo, picking coconuts, cutting sugar cane….
It’s hard to due Oistins justice in words. It’s basic, consistent and always leaves you looking forward to your next visit- a nice antidote to our all too complex world. After nearly a decade of visiting Barbados I’ve never run across a tourist or local who feels otherwise.