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Bonney Barbados: A Travel Retrospective, 1996 - Page 2 PDF Print E-mail
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Bonney Barbados: A Travel Retrospective, 1996
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Limin’ with the Locals

There are no hot sauce factories in Barbados that offer an official tour like the Mt. Gay operation, but Anne Marie was able to arrange visits to two facilities. "Factory" is an extravagant term for what is essentially hands-on manufacturing of the typical Bajan hot sauce that’s bright yellow with dangerous red flecks of bonney pepper. At the Lottie’s facility, about fourteen workers sat around tables performing various necessary functions: cleaning bonney peppers, chopping onions, mixing herbs and spices, and applying labels to bottles of the finished products.

Ready for Processing


Ready for Processing


Jackie Heath, owner of Lottie’s, was in the middle of shipping a 55-gallon drum of hot sauce to the U.S., where it would be bottled as Spitfire Sauce. She revealed to us that she had switched careers in mid-stream, giving up selling insurance to become the producer of one of the island’s best-known brands of hot sauces, seasonings, and fruit juices. Her mustard-based hot sauce is so popular that Jackie has part of each batch packed in 32-ounce bottles! She estimates that there are between six and eight firms manufacturing hot sauces in Barbados right now, and that probably a maximum of 100 acres of bonney peppers are under cultivation in many small plots to supply the hot sauce industry.

Bajan Chile Products


Bajan Chile Products


One of Jackie’s competitors is Pat McClean, who runs L.G. Miller Import and Export, which manufactures and sells hot sauces and other products under the Windmill Products brand. Her father started the business in 1965 with a homemade hot sauce recipe and soon they were producing thirty gallons of sauce a week. Nowadays, their capacity is about 2,000 gallons per week, and part of each batch is packed for competing brands. They also run special manufacturing for other Bajan food companies; for example, Pat bottles Anne Marie’s Native Treasures brand.

Pat McClean


Pat McClean


When we visited, the plant was down except for workers cleaning tamarind, but Pat showed us the modern, stainless steel equipment and the stacked products produced from the last batches run: three versions of hot pepper sauce, two ketchups, a number of syrups, jams, and jellies, and the ever-present Bajan herb seasonings. Pat loaded us up with samples, and we staggered out to the car.

Ever the organizer, Anne Marie had scheduled two sessions of "limin’." Now, to lime is essentially to relax and hang out with friends, which is easily done in friendly Barbados. One night, she and her husband Charlie took us to the fishing village of Oistins for a seafood feast. Numerous vendors prepared the day’s catch, spiced up with the ubiquitous hot sauces. I opted for dolphin at Bellamy’s stand and received a succulent cut from near the backbone that tasted great with Anne Marie’s tamarind sauce, not to mention her nutmeg-dusted rum punch. We were joined by Mark and Kim and Noel and Andrea and soon a spirited discussion resulted, during which we covered all the important subjects: could Dole beat Clinton, Princess Di’s affairs, the Chicago Bulls, and Mighty Gabby’s calypso song about Lorena Bobbitt.

The limin’ continued in full force on Sunday, when a caravan of cars converged on Farley Hill and most of the crew from Oistins was joined by Jasmine and Frank, Norman the jokester and Dennis for a rain-soaked picnic. Farley Hill is a landscaped national park and the ruins of a nineteenth-century plantation great house that was featured in the 1956 Harry Belafonte film, Island in the Sun. That would be before it burned down. Some 900 feet above the ocean, it is constantly cooled by the trade winds, which brought squalls that kept us jumping back into the cars. Under the direction of Anne Marie, we feasted on Cabbage and Bacon Salad, Roasted Pork with Bajan Seasoning, Ackee and Salt Fish, Caribbean Rice, Coconut Bread, Black Cake, and Sweet Potato-Pineapple Pie.

The only question we had was, could restaurant fare top this?


 

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