They call them “bonnies.” They are better known as Scotch Bonnet peppers and they are hot. What is hot? One of the hottest Mexican peppers is the habanero, which is a ridiculously spicy little cube-shaped pain chamber. According to some spice-rating system, the bonnies are ten times hotter than the habanero. This can make Bajan food interesting.
Bajan pepper sauce is everywhere. It’s the Tabasco, the Tapatillo, the Sriracha of Barbados. It’s a mustard-based sauce with a strong, but pleasant scent, grounded in bonnie seeds. At first taste, it is somewhat sweet. After a brief moment your mouth is on fire, all bets are off, and you’re reaching for the ice cubes, a beer, a polar ice cap—whatever you can get your lips and tongue on to relieve the pain. But it’s good—oh so good.
Respect the bonnie seeds, man, because that’s the heart and soul of the umph in the Bajan pepper sauce.
The good news: Bajans aren’t immune to it. They think it’s as hot as you do, but they know how to cook with it and use the correct amounts in a meal–just enough to bring out the flavor, not too much to blister your palate for a week. It’s all about seed control. While bonnie skins are somewhat sweet, bonnie seeds can ruin your day. It’s a Bajan yin and yang and somewhere in there is a balance that makes a meal excellent. And interesting.
What’s the point of all this? After two separate three hour sessions at Soup Bowl, in the fun head-high range all day, water about 80, turtles popping up everywhere, Snake brings over some fresh caught local fish, vegetables, and, yes, some fresh-picked bonnies and immediately goes to work. I supply the rum and the locally-brewed Guiness Stout (7.5%). He plays chef with a dexterity that matches his flow in the Soup Bowl pocket.
Third World, David Kirton on the radio. The sun is setting. I’m surfed out and soon to be full of good food. Another day ends in Barbados. Yes-I.