Great Foods of St. Croix

By Dr. Denise Bennerson

Recently, St. Croix Virgin Islands has been recognized in the media for preparing great fresh Caribbean food – which is wonderful; however for those of us that live on St. Croix – traditional fresh food – sometimes referred to as ‘from farm to table’ is nothing new. We have always had farms and fishermen to buy food from and there have always been wonderful cooks that cook with lots of love.

Like many on island, I have been surrounded by great cooks – my mom, aunts, and friends, plus great cooks in the community too numerous to mention. In addition, my mom was the owner of a restaurant on King Street in Frederiksted. Fresh Crucian food is reportedly in Vogue now, however I remember as a child tying out the goats and sheep and Mom buying fresh food from the farmers or the butcher.

I’m not into cooking, never have been, but I do enjoy eating ‘Good Food.’ I have many favorites and will speak about a few. We have always used fresh ground seasonings in our food. As a child I remembered pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle to make the seasoning.

One of my favorite Crucian traditional meals is Fish and Fungi, but you have to know how to turn the Fungi, make the balls with the right texture and cook up a mouth-watering butter fish sauce…Nice! So nice you could eat it twice!

Another one of my favorite foods that is prepared on island and my mom used to make is Red Grout topped with homemade rich cream (not can milk). What a treat! It is a dessert made with tapioca and guava.

Have any of you ever seen a ‘Horse Shoe’ cookie? My mom used to make them by the trays. It is a cookie made in the shape of a horse shoe and when you bite into it you can taste all the distinctive spices including the fresh cinnamon and mace.

Another favorite food of mine is a nice moist slice of Vienna Cake. One of my aunts used to make the best Vienna Cake on St. Croix, made with various layers including the real ‘green lime.’ I would consider her cake for adults only because it would be seriously soaked down with some local, Cruzan Rum. By the way I also like tarts and my favorite is Guavaberry and next in line is Guava… mmm. Usually, I buy a Guavaberry Tart for special occasions like Christmas along with my Sweet Bread.

One compromise in taste I cannot and will not make is our local drinks such as Maubi, Ginger Beer, Passion Fruit and Sorrel. Each one of them has their own distinctive mixture to get it right. It’s great to see numerous restaurants serving local drinks. Many years ago they were hard to find. However, I find myself asking the restaurant for a sample to taste before I order a glass to make sure that the drink producer got it traditionally right.

When it comes to local food, I’m a traditionalist, because eating certain foods brings back great childhood memories. I am not much into experimenting with traditional foods. However, if it’s different I might try it. But that’s just my taste. I also realize that St. Croix is a multicultural society and I often times try to appreciate foods prepared a different way.

In addition, I am very particular about what I eat because I have allergies and sensitive to various foods. I always appreciate when I ask the server what is in the food and they know or ask the chef. Once I am assured about the ingredients, then I can sit back, relax and enjoy my food to the fullest and not have to worry about adverse reactions.

I admire people who have a joy and love for cooking, because I love to eat. It is superb when the presentation of the food is appealing; it shows that the cook really cares and it is prepared with love.

So I hope that the various journalist and visitors keep writing and talking about the wonderful fresh food on St. Croix. There are many great restaurants on St. Croix that I visit and I encourage you to do the same. Many of them are showcased in Elegant St. Croix Caribbean Weddings Magazines and you can view them on line at: StCroixCaribbeanWeddings.com/issues or pick up a copy from our advertisers. In summation, great cooks of St. Croix keep on cooking, because I will keep on eating.

Photography by Denise Bennerson

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