From the Editor: Secrets From the Green Parrot

Lunch this day was at the Green Parrot Bar & Grill located on the cruise ship dock at George Town, Grand Caymen.

There was still about an hour before Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Sea would sail away for a stop in Jamaica before returning to New Orleans. The open-sided bar with picnic tables to the side and a guy behind a grill right outside the entrance had the appropriate amount of funkiness for the moment. Its menu required no internal debate. There was only one item, a grilled fish sandwich, served with a bag of potato chips. For a beer, I chose the native brand, Caybrew. The brew is one of the few products manufactured on the island, which is better known for its private banking, scuba diving and the gentle stingrays that swarm its shallow waters.

For all the simplicity of the setting, there was nothing simple about the price. The sandwiches sold for $12.50 each. With the beer, the tab for two was more than $30.

For the price, I guess I did expect the sandwich to be bigger. Instead there was a small slab of grilled mahi-mahi slapped into an economy-size bun with a slight portion of lettuce and tomatoes.

Then something totally unexpected happened. Expecting the worst, I bit into the sandwich and discovered that it was not just good but wonderful, something that dazzled not just with the grilling flavor but also from the seasoning obviously mixed by a genius. I have had mahi-mahi served fancy on china, and it never tasted as good. Another surprise: the potato chips. I had never heard of the Dirty All Natural brand, but its chips were especially thick, crisp and walloped with flavor in every crunch.

There would be two more surprises: One came as I was heading back to the ship and stopped to ask the grill guy what type of seasoning he had used. I was curious because the Caribbean is filled with flavors made from plants and herbs. Nearby Jamaica is known for its great seasonings such as those used to give bounce to jerk chicken and pork. The griller’s patois and my English were not totally in sync, so I asked him to repeat himself after I thought I heard him say, “Cajun.” What? “Cajun,” he repeated while holding up a plastic cup filled with seasoning powder. “Cajun!” I repeated. He nodded.

I wanted to explain to him that I was from a land filled with Cajuns, but ship time and dialects did not allow for much discourse.

I brought one of the bags of potato chips back to the ship. The chips were so good that I had read the fine print to see where they were made. Here was another surprise: Gonzales, La. That would be the home of legendary Zapp’s potato chips, which also makes chips for other labels.

Dinner on board that night was elegant but would have a hard time competing with the Green Parrot. If only I had known the flavor would come from Louisiana, I might have paid extra.

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