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JUNKANOO   JOURNAL

Excerpted from This Man Can Cook! - Bahama Papa's Nassau to New York Recipes (and cultural travel treats) - Linda Cousins and Steve "Papa" Newton. (includes a sample recipe from the cultural cookbook of Tennessee fried fish which is similar in tastiness to the seafood served at the Fish Fry {Arawak Cay} in Nassau.)

...Finally we hear the MUSIC--soul-grabbing music that stirs every fiber of your being. It's the sounds of a multitude of goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles, and dancing African-descended feet. The crowd leaps to its feet once again, grinning and dancing for all their worth. It's my baby's group--the Valley Boys, and like Dahved Levy, the New York dj says, "They were rocking it, rocking it!"

I stand up with the crowd, straining to see Papa coming by carrying that huge costume. I'll have to look for his feet because the costume will be covering his entire body. The Bahamians are jamming in the bleachers, rocking up and down and from side to side. The bleachers are moving under our feet with the rhythms of the swaying crowd.

I have never seen a group like this--hundreds of marchers, and Oh God, those goatskin drums sound so nice!. There is nothing like the sound of all of those ancestral drums being played together. I see one of the huge Valley boy costumes coming, and I feel so, so proud. That's my Papa under there. He's a real pro with his culture.

He's dancing that huge costume up the street and he looks good, man! When he gets to our stand, he revolves all the way around in the street as he marches by. Oh, I wish I had this on tape. This was really a sight to see. I love Junkanoo, and I am fascinated that Stevie plays a significant role in it. I fall in love with him all over again.

I love to hear the brothers and sisters playing the drums in Prospect Park in the summertime, but no sound matches that of all of these goatskin drums and cowbells blending together. The leaders or coordinators of the Valley Boys are dressed in white tuxes and white sneakers (quite a combination, but a wise one considering all of the marching they have to do). They highste proudly with their group; The elder one, (Winston "Gus" Cooper), is a handsome, dignified looking man with white hair, and the younger Latino-looking one lifts both hands to the sky as if in praise.

The costumed boogie-ers are rocking it all up and down Bay Street, and the crowd is still slamming it and jamming it seriously along with them in the stands. Aww, this is ni-i-i-ce, man! If they brought this Junkanoo band to the Carnival in Brooklyn in the fall, they would truly turn the place out.

This is really the best carnival I've attended. I know Trini has the queen of all carnivals, but even they couldn't have sounds as good as these. I look for Tony, a friendly singer I'd met, playing the goatskin drums, but I don't see him. Well, I am still high from the joy of seeing Stevie in the height of his island's culture. Even though I only saw him for a few minutes, that was really the highlight of my trip.

After Junkanoo, Bahamians tend to top off the festivities with a traditional breakfast of boiled fish and johnycake. Now we can tell you how to make some good ole johnycake, but instead of boiled fish, how about some delicious fried fish like the folks used to sell back home in Tennesee at the weekend community fish fries and like they sell every day at the Fish Fry (Arawak Cay) in Nassau.

This recipe is compliments of the house. To get the johnycake recipe and other Bahamian delicacies plus a few other Tennessee treats, not to mention further accounts of the culture of Bahamas and Brooklyn, check our cultural cybercookbook (available in print and Internet version--$6.00/former--$4.00 latter). E-mail us for further info on the version that piques your interest. Here's that good ole fried fish which is enjoyed both in Brother Papa's Bahamian neighborhood and Sister Cousins' Tennessee circle.

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Fried Fish

Select your favorite fish--snapper and grouper are popular in the Bahamas. When home in Brooklyn, I find that porgies come out quite tasty with this recipe.

Heat oil in the frying pan. I use corn or soybean oil. While oil is heating, salt fish on all sides. Sprinkle with a bit of garlic powder. I also use a bit of Mrs. Dash spicy vegetable seasoning. Coat fish with cornmeal. Add a couple of tablespoons of margarine to the oil for extra flavor. Sometimes I also fry onions (and a couple of minced cloves of fresh garlic) along with the fish for an even more heightened flavor.

Brown the fish on a medium flame on both sides until it reaches a golden, crisp texture that is just right for you and yours. Put a napkin around your necks, and get ready to chow down to your heart's content.

At the Tennessee fish fries, side dishes consisted of coleslaw, spaghetti, collard greens, and hot cornbread with butter. With the fish dinners served at Nassau's "Fish Fry" (Arawak Cay), you generally get French fries, a tossed salad, along with homemade bread or johnycake. Some folks also throw a nice portion of peas 'n rice on the plate. (There's a delish recipe for that in the Bahama Papa cookbook, too.) Even though I wrote it, that l'il cultural cookbook either has a permanent resting place on the bookshelf above my computer or on my kitchen counter as I stir up one of these can't-resist-me, exquisitely tasty Bahamian recipes.

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BTW, here's Papa on Long Wharf beach just up the way from the Fish Fry as we prepare to go to a Junkanoo practice. (And here's Brooklyn me by the marketplace near the Paradise Island bridge where you can get some nice, fresh Bahamian fish for that recipe we just shared with you.)

BTW#2, if you can't get to Nassau during Junkanoo time, be sure to catch a lively Junkanoo practice during your visit there in the fall. Although it's just the slightest sampling of the real thing, these practices are always an enjoyable cultural experience. Bring a whistle, a shekere, or even a bottle and stick 'cause everyone's dancing feet are welcome to join in the Junka line during practice time. Hey, it's great fun. Junkanoo time always is.

(During the fall, the Saxons generally practice on Sunday afternoons at Arawak Cay (on the field across from the Fish Fry). Contact the Bahamas Tourist Board for schedules and sites of other groups.




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