I was invited by Dr. Dianne Lawrence in her capacity as Operations Manager for Strombus Gigas Alliance (SGA), to attend an event at the Garifuna Restaurant and Cultural Center, which used to be the Black and White Bar. Owner, Julia Martinez, has done a wonderful job of changing the entire atmosphere of the building.
Little did I know we would be learning how to cook traditional conch dishes, which is right up my alley (not the cooking, but the eating). The group was lead by Dr. Sally Beisser, who is a Professor of Education at Drake University in Des Moines Iowa, USA. This is Dr. Beisser’s 9th trip to San Pedro since 2006. She described herself as the Accidental Tourist and 4 years ago began bringing the students down as an alternative spring break. The very first place they volunteered at was Holy Cross Anglican School – which was also my first volunteer gig 9 years ago :).
The 21 students all with various major degrees of study are in San Pedro on 3 different research projects focused on learning about different cultures and what they refer to as global citizenship. There was a group going to the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site that same day.
The cooking portion of their research was a fun end to a Marine Biology project. However, these particular students are Business and Health Science majors. They learned how to extract the meat and then what to do with the residual of the conch, while gaining knowledge about the economic factor of the entire process.
The students were split up into groups and were told to pick a station where Julia and her daughter Tisane and friend Melissa had laid out all of the ingredients for 5 different dishes; Ceviche, Fritters, Coconut Curry, Soup and Hudut. Thanks to Julia’s watchful eye and kitchen skills she made sure all our dishes turned out well. What a fun morning and an enjoyable group lunch tasting all our hard work.
SGA is an organization seeking to improve the sustainability of Queen Conch. Believe it or not, eating them is a part of that sustainability. The SGA Intentional website has a wealth of information, including a presentation on the sustainability of the Queen Conch.
Their current projects are:
By-product collection (from the meat harvest)
Sustainability (of the Queen Conch)
If you want to book a culture night with Garifuna drumming and buffet style food, you can reach Julia Martinez at the Cultural Center to arrange it – 605 2895.