When I was 8- and 9-years-old, my family lived on Andros Island in the Bahamas. My memories of Andros are intense sensory memories, mostly smell and taste: the smell of sickly-sweet, rotting, tropical vegetation; the taste of Goombay Punch; and the taste of Bahamas-style Macaroni and Cheese.
When I returned to the Bahamas in 2004, for the first time since the late 1980s, I wasn’t as interested in going to one of the beaches in Nassau as much as I wanted to buy a can of Goombay Punch. I despaired upon not finding it. It was several days into my vacation when I discovered that Goombay Punch had been renamed, but not reformulated, as Junkanoo Punch. I was in heaven.
Next on my list was to eat some Bahamas-style Mac’n'Cheese. When I had lived there as a kid, local women brought the best Mac’n'Cheese I had ever had to potlucks whenever we had a big get-together. There was only one restaurant in Nicholl’s Town, where we lived on Andros in the late 80s, and they didn’t serve Macaroni and Cheese, but with how often it was made by friends of ours, it seemed to be a staple local dish. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find it. Would it be the same served at a restaurant rather than homemade? Would it be the same on a different island?
My fears were laid to rest and my tastebuds delighted when I found Mac’n'Cheese listed on the menu at Conch Fritters. The baked cheddar that permeated the dish and the little bits of pepper brought my childhood back to me. Okay, here’s how you know I am a mom: SPOILER ALERT! It was just like the scene from the animated feature Ratatouille, when Anton Ego, the nasty food critc nicknamed “The Grim Eater,” tastes the ratatouille and is mentally and emotionally transported back in time to his happy childhood, forever altered by his experience. Yeah, it was like that.
Ever since then, I’ve been trying to get back to that magical food moment. I am on a mission to find the world’s best Macaroni and Cheese. And while I am pretty sure that it is in the Bahamas, I want to confirm this suspicion by trying Mac’n'Cheese anywhere I can find it till I can say, without a doubt, “I have found the world’s best Mac’n'Cheese!”