Keen foodies holidaying in the Cayman Islands with Turquoise Holidays can now immerse themselves in local culture and impress friends and family back home by learning how to cook traditional Cayman dishes. The cookery classes have been established by the National Trust and are run by its historic programmes manager, Denise Bodden, herself a relative of the Cayman Islands’ first recorded inhabitant, Isaac Bodden (c 1700); Denise is assisted by her colleague Erica Douglas, also from an original Caymanian family.

The classes are held at the National Trust office just outside George Town, Grand Cayman, on the second Wednesday of each month with hands-on instruction by some of the island’s true veterans of ‘Old Caymanian’ cooking.  These include local farmers and small producers and their wives; a bakery shop owner; Denise’s father Seth ‘Boosie’ Arch, a local chef and historic restoration expert, and Erica’s grandmother Sylvia, herself an acclaimed cook and seamstress.

Denise’s pupils learn to cook traditional Caymanian dishes such as cassava or pawpaw heavy cake, custard topped corn bread, bread pudding, duff, Christmas stew beef, fish and fritters, fish  or conch stew, chicken and dumplings, fried land crab or lobster, and local bush teas.

Denise says: “The cooking classes provide an opportunity for everyone to taste and learn how to cook real Caymanian dishes.  While much of Caymanian history and local dishes are influenced by British and African ancestry, dishes have evolved as locals have incorporated their home grown ingredients and the abundance of seafood from the surrounding Caribbean Sea.”

Traditionally, conch, Caribbean spiny lobsters, sea turtles and whelks were often used in dishes frequented locals’ dining tables.  Today there are strict marine regulations in place to protect these precious reserves of sea life with fishing stringently controlled. The turtle – the national dish – is a protected species and can only be sourced from the Cayman Turtle Farm although it is still available on most restaurant menus.

While over 150 restaurants in the Cayman Islands all offer an excellent selection of dining from beach bars and local cafes to fine French to Italian and Japanese, the authentic Caymanian way of cooking has become harder to find in modern homes.

Denise Bodden continues:  “Well known local Cayman cooks are often asked to come and demonstrate their personal recipes alongside our Caymanian regulars. The National Trust for the Cayman Islands strives to preserve authentic Caymanian cuisine by demonstrating good taste can always be in fashion!”

The classes cost CI$20 per person for non-members of the National Trust (approx £15). For information and bookings email dbodden@nationaltrust.org.ky or call + 1 (345) 749 1123 or 1126.

For holidays to the Cayman Islands, call Turquoise Holidays on 01494 678400 or visit www.turquoiseholidays.co.uk

For more information about the Cayman Islands, call the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism on 020 7491 7771 or visit www.caymanislands.co.uk.

For more information on the National Trust visit www.nationaltrust.org.ky

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