Monthly Archives: March 2014

Taste of Blacktip Moves to Avoid Escalating Violence

Traditional Caribbean favorites ginger-fried land crab, four happiness iguana and turtle egg drop soup will highlight the 19th annual Taste of Blacktip food festival.

Traditional Caribbean favorites ginger-fried land crab, four happiness iguana and turtle egg drop soup will highlight the 19th annual Taste of Blacktip food festival.

Saturday’s 19th annual Taste of Blacktip food festival has been relocated to the public pier at Diddley’s Landing in response to the cuisine-divided melee that marred last year’s event.

“The fight between the island’s two foodie factions about destroyed Sandy Bottoms Resort,” event organizer Jay Valve said. “We can’t let that happen again.”

Chefs from all the island’s resorts will prepare their versions of traditional Caribbean favorites, capped off, as ever, by the Jiangsu-vs-Sichuan Throwdown.

“People here take their food seriously,” Valve said. “The Jiangsu-Sichuan feud has divided the island for centuries, going back to the island’s first settlers. It’s ruined friendships, destroyed marriages, torn apart families.

“Last year’s brawl started when some Cantonese partisan slipped a plate of dim sum onto the tasting table,” Valve said. “Each side blamed the other, and next thing we knew noodles and hot mustard were flying everywhere.”

“It’s a shame the two sides can’t get along,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “There’s a vibrancy to the island’s culinary scene, with local chefs transforming locally-sourced ingredients into world-class dishes.”

“Staging the cook off on the pier will make crowd control easier,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “There’s water on three sides, and we’ll cordon off the fourth.

“If any rioting does occur, clean up will be a snap. We have bulldozers and fire hoses standing by.”

Blacktip Island’s chefs are eager for the competition to begin.

“We’ll hit them with lionfish-head meatballs with land crab roe,” said Gordon Kerr, Jiangsu practitioner and executive chef at the Michelin-starred Tail Spinner Lounge. “Then follow up with sweet and salty wahoo and a Nanjing iguana tripe crusted with heavy bread.

“The Sichuan lot need to get a clue,” Kerr said. “Subtle flavors are not signs of weakness.”

The Sichuan camp remained undaunted.

“At least we have flavors, subtle or otherwise,” said Blacktip Haven chef Jessie Catahoula. “And ‘mushy’ is not a texture. Not a good one, anyway.

“Our spicy-fried turtle will bring them to their knees,” Catahoula said. “We’ll finish them off with Kung Pao conch.”

The event will also feature food pairings with locally-crafted beer, rum, mead and boxed wine.

“We been blending sea grape wine with coconut hooch,” island vintner/construction worker Dermott Bottoms said. “Come up with a nice huangjiu port. Glass or two of that, you don’t care who wins.”

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Blacktip Islanders Catapult Culled Lionfish For Charity

Freshly-speared lionfish ready to be catapulted into Blacktip Island’s community garden.

Freshly-speared lionfish ready to be catapulted into Blacktip Island’s community garden.

As part of the fight against invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish devastating Caribbean reefs, the Blacktip Island Agricultural Society will stage its inaugural Spring Fling Lionfish-Tossing Tournament Saturday, with proceeds going to the island’s chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The event is part of broader lionfish control efforts throughout the Caribbean.

“Our reefs are under siege from lionfish,” event organizer Buddy Brunnez said. “It made sense to combine the cull with a Medieval siege engine-building contest. Community groups raise money for their team, hand-craft a catapult from supplies found on-island, then launch their catch into the community vegetable garden.”

Team members on scuba will have one hour to spear as many lionfish as possible. They will then report to the garden site for weigh-in, counting and flinging.

“It’s absolute genius,” Eagle Ray Cove general manager Mickey Smarr said. “We’re culling so many the damn things, we’re up to our ears in lionfish. We’re sick of eating them. So are the tourists. The restaurants are glutted. Using them for fertilizer is the perfect solution.”

“It’s spring, the time of rebirth and renewal,” Agriculture Society president Marcia Seagroves said. “These lionfish will bind us all, via the vegetables we eat, to that ancient cycle of life and death. We’ll plow them into pulp to make sure they’re fully integrated in that cycle.”

“Any pre-gunpowder era flinging device is acceptable,” Brunnez said. “Most teams are going with simple onager-style catapults. Trebuchets are the top of the line, for payload, accuracy and old-fashioned esthetics. But they take a bit of know-how to get right.”

“We had to scrap our trebuchet,” said Val Schrader, Sandy Bottoms Resort team captain. “It generated so much force the lionfish were pretty much vaporized when we released the counterweight. It was beautiful from a distance, but the folks manning the sling weren’t too happy.”

“We’ve built a bamboo ballista based on an image from the Bayeux Tapestry,” said Blacktip Haven team member and island SCA president Jessie Catahoula. “Going for accuracy on multiple shots instead of putting all our fish in one sling, so to speak.”

The contest is not without its hazards, however.

“We’re making doubly-sure we clear the garden area of spectators after little Jimmy Cottonwick got impaled during a trial fling yesterday,” Brunnez said. “He was pulling weeds and took three lionfish to the back and one to the thigh. They’re still picking spines out of him.”

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Pirate Festival Revelers Burn Supply Barge

The remains of Blacktip Island’s supply barge rests on shore of the Caribbean island.

The remains of Blacktip Island’s supply barge rests on shore of the Caribbean island.

Blacktip Island’s Pirate Festival celebrations turned ugly Wednesday when festival-goers accidentally burned the island’s only supply barge.

“One minute we’re drinking rum and shooting flare guns at each other,” resident Dermott Bottoms said. “The next, KABOOM!”

“Dermott did shoot a squib, didn’t quite clear that barge,” Bottoms’ friend Jesse Conlee said. “No idea they hadn’t offloaded all that gasoline.”

No one was injured in the blast.

“It does put us in a bind,” local businessman Rich Skerritt said. “That’s the only boat that hauls essential supplies like food, fuel and beer.”

The Tiperon Heritage Society, sponsors of the Pirate Festival, has mobilized a grassroots provisioning effort and is using the accident as a teaching opportunity.

“We’re demonstrating all the old crafts we used back before there was a supply barge,” Heritage Society president Doris Blenny said. “We’ve transformed the area around the wreckage into a hands-on teaching exhibit, showing folks how to braid rope, weave cloth and hijack passing ships.

“The Tiperons, and Blacktip in particular, have a rich history of piracy. We’re simply shifting the Festival’s emphasis from pretend-piracy to real-life piracy. This isn’t some ‘Captain Philips’ Hollywood show. No, no. This is authentic, parrot-on-your-shoulder stuff.

“There’s boats out as we speak, raiding relief convoys bound for Haiti,” Blenny said. “Sure, it’d be easier to just fly stuff in, but this lets us reconnect with our roots. And it’s way more fun.”

“We got the Youth Scouts involved,” Scout leader Samson Post said. “They’re fearless in their little sailboats. And with their cutlasses. They can get right up close to a supply ship without anyone getting too worried – they’re just kids dressed up like pirates, after all.

“They’re slated to make a raid tomorrow, give them the chance to earn merit badges in Sailing, Cannoneering, Cursing and Scallywagging.”

In related news, officials are asking for volunteer scuba divers to help recover any undamaged goods from the barge that may have sunk due to the explosion.

“There’s probably 50 cases of beer got blown all over the reef,” salvage coordinator Ger Latner said. “We’re hauling up lots of bottles. Problem is, after being in salt water, those bottle caps are all rusting off. We’re having to drink the beer quick as we can before it goes flat. We need volunteers for that, too.”

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Island Startup Launches Line of Bamboo Scuba Gear

Bamboo logs slated to become Bamboo You scuba fins.

Bamboo logs slated to become Bamboo You scuba fins.

Blacktip Island entrepreneur Piers “Doc” Plank has launched Bamboo You, an island-based manufacturer of scuba equipment made completely of bamboo.

“Bamboo’s the ultimate renewable resource,” Plank said. “We’re as green as it gets. And when your kit wears out, send it back for recycling and a discount on new kit.

“Our materials are all locally sourced. The stuff washes up on shore by the ton. Our supply chain’s a combination of beach cleanup and power walking.”

“Snorkels were the obvious starting point,” said Bamboo You sales manager Christina Mojarra. “Then fins and slates. But we quickly expanded our line to include bamboo mask frames, regulator housings and BCDs woven from bamboo fiber.

“We’ve also patented Bambooprene wetsuits, made from thin layers of cross-cut young bamboo,” Mojarra said. “It insulates better than neoprene, and it’s not nearly as buoyant. We’re beta-testing our Big Bamboo dive knife, as well. Our goal is to outfit divers completely in bamboo, from hood to fin tips.”

“First stage regulators have been a challenge,” Plank said. “The trick is getting the stuff to stand up to 3000 psi. The 150-psi IP in the second stages is a cakewalk, but we’re still picking splinters of our first-stage prototype out of the walls. And Christina’s eyebrows.”

“Bamboo You’s a shot in the arm for the local economy,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Sandy Bottoms said. “Ol’ Doc’s created jobs where there weren’t any, splinters be damned. I don’t know what half the stuff he makes does, but, by God, folks are buying it.”

“Our experience is the more useless the gizmo, the better it sells,” Plank said. “That’s the guiding principle behind our bamboo tank bangers, octo holders and clip-on D-rings.

“Our pièces de résistance, though, are the bamboo weights. Anti-weights, really. They come in quarter-pound increments and can be positioned anywhere on your body to trim you out perfectly. They’re stupid. Maybe the stupidest thing we’ve come up with. But we can’t keep them in stock – there’s two months of back-orders right now.”

“Satisfaction’s guaranteed,” Mojarra said. “Any problem with a Bamboo You product, return it and we’ll send your money back. No questions asked. We don’t want our customers feeling bamboozled.”

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