Chef Simeon Hall Jr.
Bey, Why I Think The Bahamas Has Low Self Esteem.
📸 Taken from Helicopter in the Exumas....
What does The Bahamas mean to you? To my Dad, it is the place where he believes God rested on the 7th day (Genesis 2:2) - something he has been reciting for as long as I can remember. To Dr. Martin Luther King, it was a safe haven, writing muse and home to some of his favourite eats - conch fritters. To my friend Alex, it's the backdrop to a very successful yoga practice - @bahayogi is always on the beach at its shorelines practicing. To millions of tourists, it is an accessible and amazing tropical getaway. The list goes on. But truthfully speaking, that list isn't all amiable. The struggles of slow socioeconomic development, archaic politics, unforgiving religiosity and a lengthy list of personal frustrations are all ingredients to the bitter sweetness of this place that I love deeply.
Sadly, it is that same list that aids and abets the watering down of The Bahamas I wish you all could see. Because I envision - indeed I crave - a Bahamas where local trumps imported every time. Where hospitality is effortless and courtesy is in the DNA of everyone. The Bahamas where down-home cooking is a daily privilege not a Sunday obligation. Where outside rock ovens crush inside stovetops. A Bahamas where soulfulness and loving kindness are the main ingredients in every plate of food shared with a random stranger or the community leaders.
Unfortunately, nowadays many of these are nothing more than a distant memory - present day nostalgia, to say the least. We now live in a time where neighbours find it hard to even nod a hello. Where hospitality is often hard to find in places that sell it to customers, and even much less in everyday life. The fact of the matter is The Bahamas seems to be in a period of low self esteem.
Old world building on Parliment St. that used to be a bakery and now is a law office.
I was recently reminded of the term "self contempt", which is a primary side effect of low self esteem. Do me a favor, please. Open your cupboard and tell me how many truly "Made in The Bahamas" items are there? Yeah, yeah, I know what you will say. But if you miss the forest for da trees, then maybe this message isn't for you at all.
I always buy, use and promote Bahamian!
Maybe you're one of the few that get it. Maybe you support all tings Bahamian. Maybe you already demand that all hotels and resorts serve Bahamian foods. Maybe you see and promote Bahamian entertainment as more than Junkanoo during the holidays. Maybe you still cook peas n'rice with dried conch, salted meats and fresh green peas. Or maybe, just maybe, you don't believe that The Bahamas needs to be Bahamian to be The Bahamas. LOL! Then maybe this story is actually more for you than you think!
For the record, let me proclaim that I am not "a dinosaur", as a millennial once branded me. I believe in change. I want to see "old meets new". I want and support fusion cuisine. I want to see a diverse product. What I don't want or support is The Bahamas being eclipsed by an identity that our forefathers would not recognize. I don't believe that every company logo has to represent the Bahamian flag (mine surely doesn't). But what I do believe is that the energy of old, hospitable, service-oriented, creative, local-centric Bahamas has and always will have its place.
Thankfully there is hope. You can sense a paradigm shift. So many amazing people are doing so many amazing things. The narrative of mediocrity and "substandardness" of the last maybe 10 or 20 years is being replaced with change and prosperity. Excellence and ingenuity are a stones throw away and new businesses are being fueled by this change. However, by no means is the fight over. The remanence of old habits and beliefs still obstruct modernism and creativity, but we are here to fight for generations yet to come. Chefs like me sit in the presence of the past and are inspired by it while embracing the efficiency of new, futuristic, youthful ideas.
1. What is your favourite Bahamian made product? 2. What is your favourite Bahamian restaurant? 3. Which out-island is your favourite in all The Bahamas? 4. What is your favourite old time Bahamian song? 5. What is favorites Bahamian dish? Answer these questions in the response. And make sure to follow us here and on Instagram @dinnaclubbahamas for a chance to be invited to the Dinna Club in March. TANKS BEY!