image courtesy of

You know that moment in youth, during your coming of age when you mother or father sits you down to have “the talk”. “Johnny”, they say, “it’s time we had a conversion that might make you uncomfortable, but believe me, it is a natural and beautiful part of life. It’s time we talked about…pirates.”

Then they go on to tell you that even though pirates seem cool, these days it is not a good career choice. Way back when however, it was AWESOME, and no other hub lives on in legend from the golden age of piracy like Nassau. For a span of about 15 years at the beginning of the 18th century, there was no government and the pirates outnumbered the islanders. Proclaimed as a pirate republic, many of the most well known buccaneers used it as a home base.

Although order was restored shortly after, the outlaw spirit lingered on. During prohibition, Nassau did a huge business in smuggling illegal liquor into the southern ports of the US. It was also the eventual home of modern “outlaw” King Edward VIII who abdicated the British throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson. The couple was eventually “relocated” to the Bahamas in 1940 where Edward was made Governor, as it was still under British rule.

Awkward segue.

The first time I ever heard the word Conch was in 10th grade while reading Lord of the Flies. Prior to that I just called it a shell…like a NORMAL person. The allegory in the 1954 novel is about man’s dark inner nature coming out when left without social order. I wonder how closely the “society” the lost boys create on the island resembled that of Nassau under pirate rule. It would be interesting if the pirates were able to coexist functionally, while the innocent boys descend so quickly into savagery and chaos. Maybe someone will write a paper on that.

I was looking for an ingredient that was very indicative of this nation without just being another fish. Prior to this, I had only had conch in fritters in the Carolinas. My amazing local fish monger, Frank’s Fish and Seafood Market, always has whatever I need. When I thawed the meat it looked like a cross between a clam and a cow’s tongue

Oddly enough the word itself is from Sanskrit through Portuguese. The original “shankha” became “concha” through several phonetic changes. As a mollusk it does produce pearls and they have been highly valued for centuries. When cooked, it has a subtle salty ocean flavor, but NOT fishy. A mild flavor that grows as you continue to eat it.

This is a very easy, one pot dish that delivers big on flavor and is very affordable if you can secure the main ingredient. This is another stew/soup/sauce dish that gets its body from tomatoes. Tomatoes are a new world crop, meaning that they originated on in the Americas. So while it is not surprising to find them heavily featured in Caribbean cuisine, the amount that they are showing up in European/Eastern European is impressive. Just an example of how Europe has embraced the fruit in the centuries since Spanish conquistadors brought them home from South America.

Next we visit Bahrain on the Persian Gulf…it’s Gulf, NOT golf…trust me.



Bahamian Conch Chowder

8 servings


2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
¼ tsp ground allspice
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can clam juice
2 cups chicken broth
1 lb conch meat chopped fine and bite sized chunks
1 tbsp vinegar
6 sprigs parsley, chopped
4 scallions, minced
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste



In a large saucepan , medium heat, saute’ the onion, celery, carrots, red or green pepper, potato, thyme, red pepper flakes, allspice, garlic, and bay leaves for 5 minutes or more in olive oil until they begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, clam juice, and broth. Heat to boiling, then reduce to simmer.

Add conch and simmer for 35 minutes, uncovered.

Add vinegar, parsley, scallions, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.