Go Coo-Coo For Cou-Cou

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These days I’m on the lookout for neighbors who come from other lands, so when I spotted Westbury village trustee Beaumont Jefferson and recalled that he originated from Barbados, I said, “Beau, how about cooking up some Bajan food for an article for The Westbury Times?”

“I don’t cook Bajan,” he replied. “But my sister Sherry does.”

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Sherry (center) with her brother Beaumont and sister-in-law Luisa

Sherry, who lives in Brooklyn and administers a home care agency there, is the acclaimed family chef. She learned to cook from her and Beau’s grandmother and was a renowned cook in her dorm when she attended Welles College in Aurora, NY.

Sherry came out to Beau’s Westbury home and spent an afternoon making Bajan specialties. “If my brother’s friends know I am going to cook,” she said, “they come.” And sure enough, soon there was an ebb and flow of neighbors who had come to taste her fish cakes, flying fish and cou-cou.

Cou-cou, served with flying fish, is the national dish of Barbados. It is thick, creamy pudding made with corn flour and okra. The origins of cou-cou can be traced through the African diaspora to West Africa. In Barbados, it is a tradition for cou-cou to be served on Fridays at homes and local food establishments. Served with a spicy sauce, cou-cou is a true comfort food. The Jeffersons says that when people get off the plane in Barbados, family will have a plate of cou-cou waiting to welcome them home.

Sherry is meticulous in her preparation of food. “For the cou-cou you can only use cornmeal from Barbados,” she says. “American cornmeal turns green, like Dr. Seuss’s fried eggs.”

She buys her’s in Caribbean markets in Brooklyn. Making it smooth is essential and Sherry was very exacting, using the special wooden cou-cou stick (shaped like a cricket bat) to stir the mixture.

Flying fish is a national symbol of Barbados—depicted on coins and in sculpture. It even appears in a hologram on the Barbadian passport. Sherry had just returned from a visit to Barbados and brought with her frozen flying fish. She dredged the very thin filets lightly in flour and sautéed them in a mixture of canola oil and Crisco. “The oils give a crisper crust,” she says. She also fired mahi-mahi to go with the cou-cou.

I loved Sherry’s fish cakes, which were also fried in the canola/Crisco combination. Our beverage was mauby, a popular Caribbean drink made from the bark of a tree native to the northern Caribbean and south Florida. This somewhat bitter beverage is comparable to Campari.

And, of course, on the table was Bajan hot sauce to raise the heat and the famous Mount Gay rum to raise the spirits.

Get some authentic Bajan recipes here

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