Pirates of the Caribbean
Lurking fears and phantom stalkers provide the inspiration for a sensational dessert. From "People and Food" from our June 2009 issue
Were pirates actually preying on yachts sailing in the southern Caribbean? Just in case it was true, we hit on the fiendishly clever strategy of running without lights on the passage between St. Lucia and Isla de Margarita, off Venezuela. Mithril is a 25-ton steel ketch, and Peter Maxwell, my partner, sometimes jokes that if a vessel doesn't show up on our radar, it's unlikely to do us any damage. The owners of small fiberglass sloops are horrified. The eerie green glow of the radar and a green bioluminescent wake were all that betrayed our passage through the quiet waters. Surely that would outwit those lurking pirates. We kept a sharper-than-average lookout in case other yachts had come up with the same devious scheme. We saw none. We didn't see any pirates, either-of course.
By midmorning, we were safely anchored in the busy roadstead of Porlamar. A woman from another cruising boat, Nellie's Ark, stopped by for a chat. "We were boarded by an intruder two nights ago," she said. It's unusual to hear such a tale directly from the victim. Sometimes pirate tales are a bit of an urban myth-always happening to a friend of a friend. But this woman woke up to see a man rummaging through her belongings. Slowly and quietly, she turned over to reach for the pepper spray she kept near her bunk. When she turned back, ready to attack, the man was gone, and-wonder of wonders-nothing had been stolen. Though Peter didn't say anything, his vibes told me that he reckoned the "intruder" was a figment of an imagination fueled, perhaps, by too much rum.
A couple of nights later, I woke suddenly to see a tall man with hair like that of Sideshow Bob, the character on The Simpsons, sneaking along past our bed. I sat up and screamed at full volume. But for the fact that he was already awake and could see this strange figure, Peter said later that he'd have suffered cardiac arrest from my scream alone. He added that if he hadn't witnessed it, he wouldn't have believed that I was capable of making such a noise. And our pirate? The moon and the turning of the boat had cast on the bulkhead a moving manlike shadow made from the coiled mainsheet and a winch. A hand of bananas hanging in the cockpit caused the wild hairstyle!
The next morning, I was again woken suddenly to see a man rummaging through boxes. This time it was Peter working to improvise a trip-wire alarm for the main hatch. He said that he never, ever again wanted to hear a scream like the one I made. To finally dispose of our illusory pirate, we invited the crew of Nellie's Ark to dinner and made a dessert in honor of Sideshow Bob's hairdo: a huge plate of bananas baked in rum!
4 firm bananas, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons lime or lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/2 pint rum
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon marmalade or
grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts or slivered almonds,
Prepared whipped cream
Sprinkle bananas with lime/lemon juice and salt. Arrange in a shallow, lightly greased ovenproof dish. Reserve 2 tablespoons rum if you choose to flambé. Combine remaining rum, sugar, marmalade, and spices. Heat gently until a syrupy sauce is formed. Pour sauce over bananas and sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 375 F for 10 to 15 minutes. If you desire, you can flambé this. It's easy and impressive-but optional-and requires utmost caution! Gently heat the remaining 2 tablespoons rum in a very small saucepan. Remove from heat, pour over baked bananas, and ignite, using a long match or a long-handled butane lighter. As the alcohol burns off, the flames will quickly die. Top with whipped cream. Garnish with walnuts, a cinnamon stick, and fresh mint (if available).