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The Great Bahamian Breakfast

The most basic of Bahamian breakfasts is fire engine and grits.

I’m going to let that statement breathe as you all contemplate what in Beyonce’s name is fire engine and why is a vehicle made for actual fires doing sitting on top of a bed of buttery grits. Well, because we’re a linguistically fun people, we have labelled canned corned beef as “Fire Engine”. Anywhere you go in The Bahamas, it is automatically known by that name, so, don’t be shy about using that term. Now, there are variations to the way the corned beef is prepared. Some people use tomato paste and steam it down with sweet peppers and onions. Some people like to add potatoes and some red pepper flakes for some spice. It’s all up to you. But it’s a quick, easy meal that’s super affordable on the mainland.

To be clear, most of our protein dishes are combined with grits. Steamed sardines, steamed tuna/tuna salad, steamed turkey, etc. Typically, these dishes are served with a slice of avocado or as the locals call it, “pear,” on the side. If you’re like me and you’re not a fan of grits (It’s just a weird texture; am I right?), there is also an option for white rice.

Aside from our protein and grits/rice options, I think the most beloved breakfast choice of the average Bahamian is souse. Souse is another protein heavy, soup based delicacy that’s Bahamian soul food at its finest. It is literally chicken soup…..only not at all and better. That’s the most un-chef like description I can give you. It’s hot, spicy, filled with onions and some people even add carrots. Your choice of protein is completely based on your palate. The most popular souse is chicken, second only to Sheep Tongue souse. (No, that’s not a joke. Yes, it’s an actual sheep’s tongue). Other options include turkey souse (my personal favorite), rib souse, and pig feet souse (No, that’s not a joke. Yes, actual pig’s feet.)

Souse is especially amazing during what some call “hangovers” but I call, “yesterday’s mistakes”. After a night on the town and a few too many libations, have some chicken souse and ask for an extra side of goat pepper. Pour it in the souse and watch your hangover float away. And by float away, I mean, you more or less sweat out the mistakes from the night before. Thank me later.

Souse, much like all other soup-like dishes, are served with “Johnny Cake”. Johnny cake is a dense, sometimes sweet baked bread that is a staple and unique to our island. Dip it in the souse to suck up that goodness and watch your stress fade away and your stomach expand from the soul food goodness of it all.

Other must-try breakfast dishes include but are not limited to stewed conch, boiled fish, stewed fish and conch chowder, which are all Johnny cake/grits friendly meals that warm the soul, mind and body. You’re on vacation, you were gonna take a second morning nap anyway and why not? You deserve it!