A Blog Tour Spot by Toni Williams
If you are looking for a holiday experience that is guaranteed to enthrall you and revivify your senses, the island of Saint Lucia is the place to visit.
Only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide and blessed with lush, emerald-green mountains, exuberant rain forests and wildlife, golden beaches and clear sparkling waters, Saint Lucia has been touted by tourists, travel writers and locals alike as ‘a tropical paradise,’ one of the ‘most beautiful places on the planet’ and ‘the perfect escape for a dream honeymoon.’
My new novel BetweenTwo Fires vividly captures the island’s glorious natural beauty and weaves a gripping tale of romance, mystery and suspense against the backdrop of its burgeoning tourism sector and vibrant French Creole culture. Part of the story is set on a fictional satellite island just off the island’s western coast.
Even Oprah Winfrey has touted Saint Lucia’s paradisaical qualities after coming under its spell. Following a brief visit to the town of Soufriere on the island’s south-western coast a few years ago, she was so stunned at the sight of the St. Lucia’s iconic twin peaks, the Pitons (a UNESCO-designated World heritage Site) she described it as ‘one of the top five places to see before you leave this great place called earth.’ Oprah is just one of many A-list celebrities who have been drawn to the island, including Morgan Freeman, Nicholas Cage, Stephen Segal, John Malkovich, the late Amy Winehouse and Eddie Murphy, to name a few.
Needless to say, most visitors to Saint Lucia are regular folk looking for an affordable, idyllic, fun-filled escape with a difference.
Lots of visitors, when they come to Saint Lucia, usually just want to spend their time cooling out by a pool or on the beach, being waited on 24/7 so they don’t have to leave their hotel. However, if you fancy something a little more original, for example the opportunity to broaden your horizons by savoring a bit of the island’s culture, a great way to do so is by going out and sampling Saint Lucia’s local foods and dishes.
Ask the staff at your hotel to suggest places where you could dine out. You can also ask a local (e.g. your taxi driver) if he or she knows someone or somewhere that prepares good local food, they would be happy to help.
Saint Lucian cuisine has strong French Creole, West African, East Indian and Amerindian influences, a legacy of its diverse heritage and co-mingled cultures. Most dishes are served stewed, boiled or grilled with any combination of root crops like yams and dasheen, green (unripe) bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes and breadfruit mixed with a rich variety of spices and vegetables. They are served with a variety of stewed fish or meat, accompanied by a sauce.
The heart and soul of Saint Lucian cuisine is found in the many small restaurants and food huts on or near the beaches or along the island’s east and west coast highways, and in several of the rural villages. There you’ll find a wide selection of sumptuous treats to please any palate, from the local green figs (unripe bananas) and salt fish to fried plantain, accra (fried fish-cakes made with salt fish and mixed with spices), breadfruit with salad or served as crisps, souse (stewed pig tails), chicken-back and green figs.
Another great Saint Lucian delicacy is crab back, made with a crabmeat-and-onion mixture lightly spiced and stuffed into a crab shell. It goes down well with an ice-cold beer. Desserts usually consist of fresh local fruits, including mango, papaya, pineapples and fresh coconut water.
Cassava bread, unleavened bread made from a starchy root vegetable that was once a staple of the island’s original Amerindian inhabitants, is still enjoyed today. Locals often mix in coconut, cherries and raisins for a sweeter taste. La Plas Casav/Kassav, a small bakery located just outside of the village of Canaries on the west coast keeps the tradition of cassava-bread making alive, and is a popular stop for locals and visitors alike. This delicacy can also be obtained from various vendors throughout the island.
Many bars and rum shops in the towns and villages serve meals, including fish, veggies and chicken along with an array of side dishes, including salad, plantain, breadfruit, macaroni, and rice.
There’s a regular Friday Night Fish Fry in the northern town of Gros Islet and the villages of Anse La Raye and Dennery. There you can enjoy lots of fresh seafood, including local lobster, grilled Lambi (conch), kingfish, tuna, dorado, blackfish (porpoise) and red snapper, all served in a variety of Creole sauces or chargrilled in foil. These street parties feature lots of music and dancing, so come prepared to let your hair down and have a great lime!
Don’t forget to check out the open-air Castries Market where you’ll find vendors plying an amazing variety of local condiments and spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves and grated cocoa sticks, along with a superabundance of fresh foods, fruits and vegetables. Open since 1890, the Castries was rated as one of the top ten food markets by National Geographic.
Discovering St. Lucia’s local cuisine can definitely be a great cultural adventure. Whatever you do, don’t limit yourself to dining only at your hotel. Get out and explore the island’s gastronomic delights, and enjoy a real, authentic Saint Lucian experience!
Check out Toni’s book today…