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Late dispatch from
Morne Delice, Grenada:
July 19, 2012:
The hash at Jab Jab Ranch

When we’re in Grenada, we love to hash. Essentially, a hash is a run – or walk, if you prefer (regularly accompanied by slip, slide, and stumble) – on a trail through an off-the-beaten-track part of the island, followed by music, food, and (this is key) cold Carib. Hashers – there are hash groups in 185 countries around the world – call themselves “drinkers with a running problem.” Invariably, in Grenada, the trail features gorgeous scenery, steep hills (maybe even mountains) and copious mud. Yup, it’s a workout, but tons of fun. (My tale about my first-ever hash several years ago is published in this month’s issue of Islands magazine. I did it without Steve; he was off the boat visiting his dad at the time.)

Our best (and last) hash this season started and ended at the “Jab Jab Ranch,” a simple, wooden, mostly open-air shack dispensing drinks in the middle of nowhere. (A jab jab, by the way, is a Carnival devil.) Drive 10 yards past the Jab Jab Ranch, and you’re on an unpaved mud track in the rain forest.

Jab Jab Ranch, post hash

Which is exactly where the hash began. The landscape was ferociously green, sprinkled with cocoa, coffee, and mango trees; the hare (the hasher who sets the week’s trail) was relatively kind; and the views along the way were fabulous. But (now here’s a surprise) what I want to tell you about is the food afterwards: the best oildown I’ve tasted. Oildown is Grenada’s national dish: a one-pot stew usually including chicken, salted beef or pig snout, and/or saltfish and/or smoked herring; breadfruit; green bananas; potatoes; flour dumplings; and callaloo, all cooked in coconut milk. (When the coconut milk releases its oil, and the oil has made its way down to the bottom of the pot, the dish is ready; hence the name.) Heavy-duty comfort food, Grenada style.

The oildown at the Jab Jab Ranch was prepped outdoors – it’s not like there was a kitchen here – and cooked over a wood fire by a Grenadian guy nicknamed “Tops.” I’ll say: Producing food from scratch for about 200 hungry people in the middle of nowhere without a single convenience (unless you count the standpipe dispensing cold water at the edge of the rain forest) is a pretty fine party trick. Tops has cooked professionally in restaurants (including one in Toronto, he told me), but these days caters events instead – weddings, funerals, birthdays and, now, hashes. I’ll let Steve’s photos tell the story. If you want to try your own oildown, I include a full recipe – one I learned from watching our Grenadian friend Dingis – in The Spice Necklace.

The "kitchen" at the Jab Jab Ranch; that's Tops, in the centre behind the smokescreen

"Saffron" -- the West Indian term for turmeric -- is essential to oildown; here, it's being sprinkled on the chicken pieces

There was no pork or other meat in this oildown,
only chicken and plenty of provision: Irish potatoes, breadfruit,
and bananas.

Tops slices bluggoes, a type of banana used green as a vegetable

Tops keeps his callaloo leaves whole, tying up each one
with its stem to form a tidy bundle. "That way, every serving
has a nice piece of callaloo."

Making coconut milk from scratch: After grating the meat,
Tops mixes it with water and squeezes it
in his hands it to extract all the flavour

Lending a hand: Tops holds the grater while I pour the coconut milk back
through it to strain out the grated meat before it goes into the pot

Hand-rolled flour dumplings are last into the pot

The pot is supported over the fire on an old tire rim

Yum yum yum. Tops serves up a heaping helping.
Even after a hash, I couldn't manage to clean my plate.

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6 comments on “Late dispatch from
Morne Delice, Grenada:
July 19, 2012:
The hash at Jab Jab Ranch

  1. Mrs Pots on said:

    Wow… food looks amazing, puts my little efforts on the Coalpot to shame!

  2. Kay Heath on said:

    Seeing this hash adventure and oildown makes me homesick for Grenada and our boatlife on Finisterre, on the hard until Nov at Grenada Marine. Maybe we’ll meet at a hash this coming season!

  3. Mary Lou Culbertson on said:

    The food looks wonderful. Hope to get back to the Islands
    this winter. I have trid many of your dishes and loved
    them all.

  4. Vano Gust on said:

    as usual wonderful log. Remember that hash in January, I finished and not last (close to it) Pirate our cab driver and his wife Jane made us oildown at our hotel on Independence Day. I still haven’t gotten up the nerve to make it. Hope to see you next year, we arrive Dec 30

  5. Tricia on said:

    Looks great! We’ll have to get back to Grenada to try some.

  6. Belinda Del Pesco on said:

    Wow…. I can’t get my taste buds to imagine that blend of flavors, but since I like all of them individually (well, the ones I’ve had access to), I’d be so thrilled to try a plate of this dish. What a wonderful set of process photos. This is great. Thanks so much for posting.

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