Sunday, June 13, 2010

Big Charles and the Fish Fry

Our hotel was kind of isolated, so if we wanted to go out to eat, we had to take a cab or ride a shuttle bus provided by the hotel into the Port Lucaya district. On one of the rides, the bus driver told us about a weekly event near Freeport called the Fish Fry.

It seems that a Bahamian woman owned three restaurants on a parcel of beachfront land at Smith Point. However, only one of the restaurants - the most successful - is actually on the beach; the other two sit back from the beach. The owner died two months ago and left the three restaurants to her children, who are now fiercely competing with one another for business.

Most of the time, they cater to tour package deals, and are not open to the public. But on Wednesday, all are welcome. At about 6 p.m., people start to arrive, and before long, there are 30 or 40 people waiting in line at the beachfront restaurant. The restaurants are very basic – shacks, really.

Diners eat right on the beach.

beach_dining


The fish are dipped into Bahamian-seasoned batter and fried whole.

fish_fry2


I had the Red Snapper.

fish


As people finish eating, they either go to the bar and hang out, or walk down to the water’s edge to hang out. The big crater is where they have a bonfire later in the evening.

bonfire


When we finished eating, we hung around for a little while. It soon became obvious that after about 9 p.m., it turns into a young people’s scene, when the throbbing music and sweaty bodies on the dance floor took over. So we grabbed a cab back to our hotel, and the cabbie pulled into a gas station to fill up.

After he filled the tank, the driver pointed out a group of men sitting on a bench outside the gas station. “You see that fat guy?” he asked. “That’s Big Charles. He’s a police officer. If there is one person responsible for keeping peace on this island, that’s him. Big Charles don’t play.”

He then proceeded to regale us with stories about Big Charles. He told us that once, when he was about 12 years old, Big Charles came to his school, walked right into the classroom during a lesson, and grabbed a kid by the shirt collar. “Boy,” he bellowed, “You got to stop thievin’!” Apparently the kid had broken into a house, and had been identified by a neighbor. Big Charles dragged the kid out of the classroom, and gave him a terrifying lecture, accompanied by numerous swats to the side of the head. Whether the kid stopped breaking into houses is unknown, but every other child in that classroom got the message: Big Charles don’t play.

“If Big Charles catches some bad guys, he always shoots one,” the cab driver said. He then told us the story of a high school kid named Lamont. Lamont was an athlete in high school - a runner, and represented Grand Bahama Island in numerous competitions. Everybody knew Lamont as a good kid, but he fell in with some bad company. Two of Lamont’s friends robbed a store while Lamont drove getaway. The getaway car broke down, and Big Charles found them. Big Charles cuffed the other two, turned to Lamont and said one word: “Run.” Lamont took off like a rocket, knowing full well what was coming. Big Charles shot him in the leg, and Lamont doesn’t run anymore.

“We don’t have a shooting range on Grand Bahama Island,” the cab driver explained. “So Big Charles practices on criminals.”

The Fish Fry doesn't end until 3 a.m. Uniformed police hang out to make sure there’s no trouble. But all they really need is Big Charles.

restaurant

1 comment:

burton said...

The Big Charles story is funny. It almost sounds like Charles Barkley - the retired NBA All-Star. I guess Charles Barkley played so it can't possibly be him.

I have a very difficult time eating food if you can identify it because it still looks like what it was when it was alive. For example, your red snapper would never slip past the goal. I can barely deal with a Thanksgiving turkey.