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Condiments, savories, appetizers, main dishes and desserts
Archibald Forbes (see About
Us) exclusively for Bermuda
is often superb in taste and texture. But they are
for those who do not have to watch their weight or calorie or cholesterol count! Once,
until about the 1930s, we Bermudians grew much of our own food. Nowadays, more
than 90% of all Bermuda food is imported. Only carrots cannot by law be
"Bermuda cuisine" really means how the food is prepared or served,
unlike in most other countries where it is also caught or grown or distilled or
manufactured. Not many local websites will tell visitors and newcomers to note
that almost all Bermuda cuisine and other cuisines are imported and that almost
all food including restaurant food
Bermuda comes from overseas, mostly from the USA, and is resold here at
prices often very appreciably more expensive than restaurants in the USA. After March, local
lobster, very expensive by American standards - especially in MA, ME, CT, MD, RI and
SC - is not available until at least the fall. At other times of the year, if
lobster is on the menu, it will be Maine or Canadian lobster.
There are no local kosher foods.
Books on Bermuda Cuisine include:
Cookbook (The). By Cecile C. Snaith.
Cookery. Bermuda Junior Service League (BJSL), a women's volunteer
organization dedicated to improving the local community. Bermuda cuisine and
culture. Sold a quarter of a million copies over a period of three decades.
BJSL used the funds from the first book to run the Deliverance in St.
George’s for twenty years, and build a playground and a rape crisis
centre, among other projects.
Traditions. 2009. Veteran Bermudian chef Fred Ming.
Traditions and Tastes. Judith Wadson. 1997. Origin of Island holidays
and their cuisine. 48 pages. $15
Cooking Good 'Nuff for Sharing. Compiled by Vernon Temple AME Church.
Tastes and Traditions of Bermuda. 2004. $37.95. Much bigger successor of
Bermuda Cookery. Bermuda Junior Service League (BJSL). Bermuda
cuisine and culture. 256 pages with more than 200 recipes and colour photos
of Bermuda cooking, traditions and celebrations. Published in the USA by The
Codfish and Potatoes. 2002. By UK-born Chef Mathew Line who then
and worked in Bermuda.
Bermuda. 1996. Ed Bottone. $9.95. Author is "The Curious Cook"
food writer and cook. A gastronomic tour of his favorite restaurants and
Bermuda Recipes. The Sunshine League.
- Ales and beers.
Dockyard Brewing, a micro brewery,
makes local ales and beers for its tavern at Dockyard.
- Avocado. Once prolific
in Bermuda, with huge pears growing the grafted kind but almost completely
gone now. Today, 99.99 percent of avocados bought for eating are imported. Bermuda
imports more than two million a year. There are local recipes for avocado
soup and guacamole dip.
- Banana Meatloaf or Banana
Scallops. Like a regular
meatloaf, but add 2 beaten eggs, 1.5 cups mashed
bananas and 3 strips bacon. Scallops are made with 1 egg, 1 teaspoon salt, 6
firm bananas still slightly green, 0.75 cup cornflake crumbs. Beat egg and salt.
Peel and cut bananas into 1-inch pieces. Dip in egg, drain, roll in crumbs, fry
in hot deep fat for about 2 minutes. Drain when brown, exceptional with garlic
- Bay grape jelly. From cooked berries
of female bay grape trees (Coccobola uviferal) - like purple grapes. Edible but astringent, with a
sweetish acid taste. About 25 pounds of fruit will make 5 jars of jelly.
Elsewhere, known as sea grape or kino or platterleaf.
- Bermuda Onion jam, soup,
tart. Onions play an important part in Bermuda’s heritage. At one
time, Bermudians were nicknamed ‘onions.’ In the 1800s Bermuda was known
the world over for its onions which had a sweet, mild flavor. Unfortunately,
Texas started to grow their own mild onions and shut down the Bermuda onion
export market. The traditional Bermuda onion is similar to a Vidalia onion.
Bermuda Onion Tart
- Bean soup. Two types. Black-eyed bean soup is a Bermudian
( imported beans) and South American dish.
Portuguese red bean soup, also from imported beans, is tasty but can be
spicy. Often featured on local menus. The Portuguese from the Azores who first came to Bermuda 150 years
ago brought the black-eyed and red bean soup methodology with them.
The late great American comedian and
humorist Bob Hope, during his 1990 visit to Bermuda to tape his NBC
Christmas Special, had some, gasped, ate avidly and
said: "Every restaurant here has a
smoking and non-smoking section. The smoking section's for people who eating the
Portuguese red bean soup. It won't just put hair on your chest, it'll
give it a permanent. I had too much of it the other day, belched in bed and set off the
- Bibby. A beer, made in
the 17th century from fermented
palmetto (Sabal bermudiana) berries. Early colonists uprooted palmetto trees for it.
No longer available.
- Cassava pie. An authentic original Bermuda
savory recipe. It dates back to before 1612 when
the first settlers from England grew the cassava root, long used by the Indians
of the New World, for flour. It has 12 to 18 eggs, 10 lbs
of cassava, a whole boiled chicken, 2 lbs of sugar, 2 lbs of pork,
nutmeg, mace and more. Early colonists found bird's eggs and wild
pigs in abundance. Nowadays, cassava is imported. Delicious but
fattening, not good for vegetarians! There are various cassava pie recipes,
some of which specify chicken instead of pork and farina as well as cassava.
But the most flavorful recipe has both meats.
- Cedar berry beer
or wine. No longer common, made from the berries of the local cedar tree (a
juniper). The cedar tree suffered an island-wide blight in the 1950s and has
never fully recovered, so berries are quite scarce.
- Cherry foods and wine. Jams, jellies, pies, sherbets, walnut
bread and wine, made from local cherries that look like miniature pumpkins - ribbed Surinam
variety, growing freely on many hedges. They are red (ripening from
orange red) when ripe in March to
June. Originally a 19th century import from Grenada that became naturalized in
Bermuda. A dessert is Flaming Surinam
Cherries - served with rum and vanilla ice cream.
- Christmas puddings
(originally a porridge called frumenty), an ancient traditionally British
wheat dish filled with dried fruits, invariably spirits - brandy - in
a generous amount. It acts as a preservative. In the 1600s these puddings
were banned by the Puritans. Rich and rife with calories! Here in
Bermuda it is rare or impossible to find a store-bought locally-made
Christmas pudding. They are usually made well in advance, by Bermudians or
Bermuda residents, at an estimated cost of $20 including high import duties
for always-imported ingredients. In the UK, where they originated, in and
before the Christmas season it is common to see them in Marks and
Spencer, other major supermarkets and stores like Aldi and Lidl, for £2-5
- Codfish and bananas. A
Bermuda variation (with the bananas) of a popular Mediterranean dish.
With frozen salted codfish always imported from Nova Scotia or USA.
Served with local bananas, the fig type. A typical Bermudian Sunday breakfast,
so popular it is featured at many restaurants catering to both locals and
tourists. Variations include with avocado, creamed codfish and codfish cakes.
- Conch. Once a popular
local dish, but no longer legal. Fisheries
(Protected Species) Order 1978 states Queen Conch (Strombus Gigas) and Harbour Conch
(Strombus Costatus) are illegal to import, an offence to
purchase, possess and obtain from Bermuda waters. Thus no longer on any
legal menus in Bermuda but still popular in some parts of the
Caribbean 900 miles south.
- Dark and Stormy. See
under "Ginger Beer" and "Rum and Ginger Beer soda"
- Dried Mullet Roe. An
old Bermudian - St. David's Island - dish made from mullet roe and guts, served
from imported frozen salted codfish and mixed with potatoes, peas or beans
and other spices or condiments. The dish was not originally solely
Bermudian, variations of it have existed since the 13th century in Malta,
Sicily and rest of Italy, other Mediterranean cities or islands, France,
Spain and Portugal and their island territories.
Fish chowder. A
Bermudian British dish that came over with the first colonists, not an original
American dish. A spicy Bermudian soup. it begins with a good
stock, rich and flavorful, made from fresh local de-boned fish, with fish heads and tails used. Other ingredients include water, bacon fat, a diced pawpaw, parsley, salt and ground
pepper, black rum and sherry peppers, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns,
cloves, canned tomatoes, thyme. 2 pounds of potatoes. Splash liberally
with more rum and sherry peppers. Long, slow simmering is the key. A meal by itself
or as an appetizer. It is different in content, taste and texture to any New England style
fish or clam chowder. It should not be too watery or over
thickened with corn starch or with too much tomato paste. The best recipe has
boiled up fish carcasses.
Close to it - in texture, not taste - are
Maryland's crab cakes and North Carolina's she crab soup. Also, for over 1,000
years common in Italy, Malta, Sicily, Cyprus, and southern and
western France where the soupe de poisson - fish soup - is made in similar fashion but
with smaller fish from the Mediterranean and served with rouille and croutons to give it
unblemished flavor. In Bermuda it is usually served with spicy sherry peppers,
to give it the local flavor. In the Mediterranean it does not need this
condiment, is absolutely delicious as as, just as flavorful and a fraction of
the Bermuda price. Similar in some ways to Scottish dish Cullen
Skink except the latter is always made from smoked fish.
Sandwich. Usually fried locally caught (but could be imported and
frozen) fish in a sandwich.
Ginger beer - quite different to ginger ale -
invented in the UK in the 1700s, was and still is that one of that nation's favorite
soft, carbonated, non-alcoholic drinks by far, for
well over 150
years. In the UK, supermarkets sell their own brand, such as ASDA, Co-op,
Tesco, Waitrose and others. In 2015, the price for a 2-litre plastic bottle
is about O.70 pence sterling (about Bermuda Dollar $1.18). Once, the UK had more than 3,000 breweries dedicated
to ginger beer. Initially, it was both a soft drink as it is now in Bermuda
and elsewhere and a uniquely British-UK intoxicating beverage averaging a heady 11% alcohol content. Crabbe's
alcoholic ginger beer of Edinburgh, Scotland, North Britain, is an example,
still in production.
The term "ginger beer" derives from the original alcoholic version
(also now sold by Famous Grouse whisky in Scotland). By default, the name
later included the non-alcoholic soft drink version even though it is
neither any kind of beer nor made like one. In the 1800s,
ginger beer became a popular export to the USA, initially from England, later
from Canada also. The technological superiority at the time of English potters
is primarily the reason for this. The fermented ginger beer was bottled in ornate
stoneware flasks called Improved Bristol glaze. Later, bottles that
replaced the flasks had stout corks
and wire to ensure the pressure was maintained and to help guarantee a long
shelf life. Barritt’s Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer, sold as a
Bermuda product, is actually now (since the end of 2010) produced in Florida from a special concentrate made in
Milton Keynes, England, derived from raw Jamaican and African ginger. The soft drink,
which is not uniquely Bermudian for the reasons given above and below, has nevertheless been sold continuously in Bermuda since
1874 and many places in other British Commonwealth countries.
It stems from when the Royal Navy, which once had a major Royal Navy
military base in Bermuda, brought the idea over from another then-major
Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow in northern Scotland, UK, and created the
first Bermuda-based non-alcoholic ginger beer bottling plant. Non-commissioned sailors of
the Royal Navy at Scapa Flow had discovered ginger beer was a tasty and more
thirst-quenching edition to what was then their daily tot of mostly Demerara
or Barbados rum. This information was given personally to this website
author Keith A. Forbes by children of former Royal Navy, then Scapa
Flow-based dependents. This is the real story behind how the drink became Bermuda-naturalized.
At one time there were several competing ginger beer bottling plants in
Bermuda. There, it now costs from US$ 4.00 for a 2 liter
plastic bottle. Gosling's also has it in imported cans. In
Bermuda, ginger beer sells for about four times the cost in the UK. Barritt’s
Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer is one half of the national Dark ‘n’ Stormy
drink, with the other half made from imported rum. In North America, non-alcoholic ginger beer is made and available in Canada,
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maryland.
Bermuda honey is more expensive than
the imported product from Canada and the USA, but preferred by locals. Bees were first imported on a British ship in 1616 when English colonist
Robert Rich received some sent to him by his cousin Sir Nathaniel Rich. He began the local beekeeping micro-industry. In contrast, bees were not
imported from England to the USA until six years later. Bees and
beeswax were exported for many years in small quantities from Bermuda to USA and Caribbean.
In Bermuda, bees luxuriate in a number of flowering
shrubs and trees. A teaspoon of Bermuda honey taken with tea is a powerful
aphrodisiac. Typically, there are two honey flows a year., a minor one in June
to July and a major one in September to October. Beekeepers normally harvest
honey following these flows. with most of the local honey in the fall flow. It is not generally realized that when one speaks
disparagingly of the "invasive" flora of Bermuda, local bees like
the invasive flora best for nectar, in particular the Mexican pepper.
Hoppin' John and paw paw Montespan. (No known
relationship to Montespan in France). Hoppin' John is a 17th century British dish from Bristol named after a slave
and made with bacon, still popular in British regional cooking and better
restaurants. Hoppin' John and paw paw Montespan, is a local variation,
allegedly thought of by an 18th century French prisoner-of-war detailed in
Bermuda, is a rich, savory dish of black eyed peas, top round ground beef cooked with tomatoes and paw paw, served with a generous helping of rice. Tasty!
If you prefer, you can make the
dishes separately. Local paw paw, almost a wild fruit these days, is a
much smaller and less sweet version of the large and sweeter and more
fruity papaya of Hawaii and the Caribbean (not grown in Bermuda.
- Loquat foods and liqueur.
From the Loquat (Eriobotrya
japonica). Introduced from the Orient by Governor Reid in 1850 as a fruit crop. It is a
luxuriant tree that thrives in sheltered areas. The yellow-orange plum-like fruit ripens
in the late winter or early spring. They are tart but delicious, fresh or preserved, as a
relish or liqueur. Loquat liqueur is a very smooth but potent, using gin, vodka or rum as
the spirit base. Loquats were imported to get local birds to
stop eating expensive Bermuda citrus. Bermudians eat ripe loquats straight off the tree,
stewed, or embodied in dishes and drinks. Loquats often grow wild. Loquat cake is unusual. Loquat chutney has a
nice piquancy as a choice condiment for cold meats. Loquat jam and ginger jam are
delicious on toast or bread or mingled with peanut butter. Loquat jelly is
unique. Loquat pies make good eating,
especially with a whipped cream topping. Loquat soufflé is excellent. Loquat
wine has also been made in Bermuda.
Milk Punch. Lemons, milk and black rum.
- Mussels. Mussels come from local waters and
Bermudian chefs often serve them slightly curried in a thick mussel stew in a pastry
shell; or as mussel fritters or steamed mussels, or mussel pie.
Arca zebra are Bermuda's
turkey-wing shaped mussels. These attractive brown and white striped shells
get their name because they are shaped somewhat like a turkey wing. They are
the most abundant bivalve in Bermuda’s waters, and are most commonly
sourced in Harrington Sound. These animals are found along the east coast of
the United States from North Carolina to Florida, through the Caribbean and
as far south as Venezuela. Turkey-wing mussels grow slowly to a maximum size
of approximately 80 mm, and are thought to reach 10 years old! They
are the principal ingredients in a traditional Bermuda mussel pie.
- Onion dishes. All these are best with Bermuda grown
onions. They include an Onion Casserole recipe; Onion Biscuit Bread; Onion Soup that includes bacon, coffee cream and Swiss
cheese; Onion Pie; Onion Soufflé.
- Outerbridge's Sherry peppers. If you sample Bermuda Fish Chowder
during your stay, a good restaurant will offer a cruet or small bottle of this
condiment from which
to extract a few drops to enhance the distinctive flavor and aroma of the dish.
The commercial local version of this condiment, when made by Bermudian the late
Yeaton Outerbridge, his son Doug and cousin Robbie, is a special blend of
sherry and peppers. It is made from a secret recipe of
17 peppers, sherry wine and a variety of herbs. Royal Navy sailors first made this
dish popular, to make their rations more
interesting. They used to add it to their meals to mask the taste of food gone
bad – it added that bit of zest that made the meals bearable. Available at all local major supermarket stores.
Similar to the hot pepper sauce produced
in the American Deep South.
- Paw Paw Casserole.
Interesting local dish.
- Rum. Imported to
Bermuda, not made here as assumed by many visitors (sugar cane is not grown
commercially as the climate is not right and there is and has never been any
rum distillery in Bermuda). The "Product of
Bermuda" label available locally is misleading and not accurate compared to what is
required to be carried by jurisdictions abroad on bottles of rum purchased
there, all of which show the country or countries of origin of the rum. All
rum available in Bermuda or packaged/bottled/branded locally is imported into Bermuda as a rum distillate in casks from various Caribbean
places 800 miles or more away from Bermuda, including Barbados, Guyana and
Trinidad. In 1860, Gosling
Brothers Ltd. imported its first barrels of Caribbean rum into Bermuda. Numerous
different blends were tried until one was formulated and deemed ideal, now known
as Black Seal Rum. Gosling’s Black Seal (named after the black was used to
seal the bottle), a quality product, is still produced using a blend of pot
and column still rums imported into Bermuda and aged 3 years in ex-bourbon
barrels and blended, in Bermuda for local consumption or in the USA for that
and other markets. It retails in the UK for about £25 a 70 litre bottle for
40% proof, less in the USA.
- Rum and ginger beer soda. Long before they first became popular
here, Britain's Royal Navy had a prominent regional name for the dark rum
originally from Demerara (formerly British Guinea, now Guyana) and then Barbados and ginger beer drink originally from
England. The Royal Navy also had its own ginger
beer bottling plant at its former naval base in Bermuda and used ginger beer ingredients
imported from England long before there were any civilian bottling plants for ginger beer
non-alcoholic soda in Bermuda. Royal Navy ratings and petty officers - all of
them non-commissioned - found that
non-alcoholic ginger beer added to their daily tot of black
rum was a great and cheap way to make the tipple even more satisfying. These
facts were given personally to this website author Keith A. Forbes while
he was on vacation in Scotland and it is how they can be revealed. Royal
Navy personnel called it a
"Scapa Flow" as a suitable alcoholic salute to the Royal Navy base at
Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands of the North Atlantic, north of the
northernmost mainland of Scotland, until after the end of World War 2. Gosling's
later coined their own now-trademarked name for it as a dark and stormy.
Persons who drink it are legally entitled entitled to this name only when it
is made from Gosling's rum. Otherwise, they should call it a "Scapa
Flow." To make it, add up to 5 parts of ginger
beer for every one of rum. For extra flavor,
squeeze a little fresh lime into the drink. In 1995, an off-duty Scottish loch keeper on the
sighed in deep pleasure when offered the drink by this author and his wife, asked for another shortly afterwards, told the
author with a great smile "it wraps a hairy worm around the heart" and
confirmed from his own experience and that of his father, grandfather and
great-grandfather all once in the Royal Navy, all of whom referred to it as
such, that it was a
"Scapa Flow" - after the Scottish body of water made famous by the Royal
Navy as a key anchorage, a sound. Scapa Flow, famous especially as a
former strategic Royal Navy base, and at which German naval vessels after
World Wars 1 and 2 were sunk, is surrounded by Mainland, Hoy and South Ronaldsay. Interestingly, Royal
Navy officers, including those who during their Bermuda posting founded the
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, would never drink a Scapa Flow, considered a
working man's or below-decks drink, as was rum. Instead, they invariably
drank a gin and tonic.
- Rum Swizzle. The rum of the rum swizzle is not distilled here.
Rum Swizzle ingredients include 6 ounces of
imported black rum, 6 ounces of another lighter rum, 1 ounce of
imported apricot brandy, juice of four local or imported limes or lemons, 1.5 ounces of
local or imported honey and 4 dashes of bitters imported from Trinidad and Tobago.
- Shandy. A British style drink, popular with
British expatriates, originating from the UK. It is made from imported lager beer and ginger beer or lemonade in
quantities to suit individual tastes. If you do not like ginger beer, Sprite will do.
(In the UK, you can buy already-mixed shandy from all supermarkets for about 45p
a 2-litre bottle).
- Shark fritters or hash.
Sharks are common beyond Bermuda's
reefs and are a favorite of some Bermudians, as shark fritters or shark hash.
- Shrub. A drink made from Bermuda sour
oranges, lemons and rum liqueur.
Baked red snapper is a choice dish when caught in Bermuda waters.
- Stonehole Stew. So-called
as it originated at Stonehole Bay, South Shore, off South Road, west of
Warwick Long Bay, located between Chaplin Bay and Jobson's Cove, at the
extreme western end of Warwick
parish. It is one of the prettiest of all Bermuda's south shore coves. The
beach is so-called because of a gaping hole in a cliff-top coral formation
that gives the stunning natural stone frame view. Directly north of it on
the land side of the South Road is the former British Army's Warwick Camp
(later taken over by the Bermuda Regiment), for many years it was a favorite
haunt of British Army
regiments once quartered there in whole or in part. And because of this,
they originally devised what later became known as Stonehole Stew, in
commemoration of the beach. This unique stew was a culinary mix of initially
British Army later civilian locally grown pumpkins, white or red and sweet
potatoes, onions and salted imported beef traditionally cooked on camp fires
in a three-legged iron pot.
- Sweet potato pudding. Made from local sweet potatoes which
are a light green compared to orange yams from overseas. It can be served with lunch or
dinner. When fireworks were legal in Bermuda on November 5 - for what in the United
Kingdom is still Guy Fawke's Day - it was served with cedar berry beer.
- Syllabub. A monster of a
dessert made in Bermuda with
layers of guava jelly, thick cream and sherry. Yes, guavas can be grown successfully in
Bermuda! Syllabub is originally English, dating back to the days of King Henry VIII, if
- Tea. Mostly prepared the American way, in tea bags,
not surprising considering 85% of all visitors are American, only 5% British
UK nationals - not the British
way, in tea pots and with leaf tea. Tea is not grown in Bermuda and
the only imported tea available is for American palates. Britons should
bring in stronger tea made for British markets. Green tea - American or Asian or
Indian - is said to
be an anti-oxidant, good for those with a
- Turbot Stew. Another
interesting local seafood dish.
- Wahoo. Since 1609, this has been the name of
a species of game fish still caught in local waters (but not solely). It is a distinctive Bermudian
dish, expensive. David
Letterman and Wahoo in Nebraska made the name popular in the USA. One good dish
is a wahoo salad which will serve a family of four, is
nutritious, delicious and healthy. Its ingredients are two
carrots, two ounces pickled ginger, a handful
of dry cranberries, one bag arugula, one lemon, one lime, six to eight ounces
wahoo, two tablespoons virgin olive oil, a
dash of rice vinegar or cider vinegar, dash of salt
and pepper, soy sauce for dipping. Thinly slice the carrots and toss in the dash
of rice vinegar or cider vinegar. Put the
arugula in a mixing bowl with the dash of salt and pepper and add the olive oil,
cranberries, ginger and juice and a bit of zest from the lemon and lime. Toss
it and plate it. Slice
the fish. Add it to the plates raw, sear it for 30 seconds to a minute on each
side for medium rare, or longer for personal preference.
December 6, 2018
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