Hey hey hey everyone! Guess what? I am actually, contrary to what you may have been wondering, not dead—which is great for me, personally. It just so happened that I was out gallivanting around in nowhere other than the Bahamas for a week, resulting in an unusually long absence from this here blog.
I know. It was pretty rad.
Let me preface this by explaining that my school, which happens to be quite preppy itself, sponsors a trip to the Bahamas to learn about marine biology and the conservation every two years. Being interested in that stuff myself, I decided to participate; and after many months of preparation, we were shipped off to the Island School in Eleuthera, the island being a long, skinny strip of land 50 miles east of Nassau.
Prior to the trip, I was dealing with the quadruple whammy of being super anxious about flying on a plane and leaving the country for the first time and being away from home (and the internet!) for a week on top of exam week, which was, I will tell you, not very pleasant. That is basically why I didn’t schedule any posts during my extended absence—I had zero energy or motivation to write or bake or do jack shit. You’ll understand. Everyone has shitty weeks where even the most basic tasks seem like climbing Mount Everest and you just want to curl up and cry and sleep and not think about important things. Right? Yeah.
So on Sunday morning, I arose before the crack of dawn to meet up with 15 other students at the airport and begin our journey to a Caribbean paradise.
But before we even arrived (that took about 12 hours of flying on three different planes and waiting around at airports), I was blown away by the plane ride. Seriously. I think I’ll have to have a talk with my engineer dad (who works on planes) about how the hell a giant chunk of metal carrying dozens of passengers can casually scoot down a runaway and FLY INTO THE GOD DAMN CLOUDS. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? WHY ARE WE NOT BEING SLAMMED INTO THE BACK OF THE PLANE? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!
Sorry for shouting.
The last flight—a half-hour trip from Nassau to Rock Sound, a settlement in Eleuthera—was the group’s favorite by far. The view of the turquoise Caribbean from the dingy little plane was stunning. Of course, that was only the beginning of all the gorgeous shit we would see throughout the week.
I can’t say I knew what to expect at the Island School (especially since, contrary to Google Maps, it is not in the middle of the ocean). Turns out, it is not a five star hotel. Our dorms were small and a little scuffed up from countless visitors. The conservation practices, we learned, are pretty stringent—all the electricity is generated from on-site wind and solar power, making electricity a bit limited for Island Schoolers; the entire freshwater supply is dependent on rainwater collected in cisterns (thus the enforced one-minute navy showers and sayings like “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”); there are also no “trash cans” on site and only “resource bins”, where waste is sorted into categories like paper and plastic and, for gross stuff, biohazard; there were no napkins at any of the meals, period, nor was any plastic container that could possibly potentially ever be re-used disposed of (after all, single-use plastic isn’t fantastic!); and at every meal, you were made to take reasonable portions (two slices of pizza per person! and wait for everyone to get their firsts before you go and get seconds!) and FINISH YOUR FUCKING PLATE YOU MONSTER, DON’T WASTE FOOD and sort any watermelon rinds or whatever into bins for compost, chicken feed, and pig feed. And by the dining hall, do stop by the poop garden, where shit is pumped into plants to remove the excess nutrients before it is pumped into the ocean, where it could potentially kill the coral reefs (which thrive in low-nutrient environments). And check out the goats and pigs and chickens, slurping up food waste, and the gardens living off of campus-made compost (pesticides? hell no).
It was pretty awesome. An entire campus with hundreds of people, living completely sustainably.
Oh, but did I mention the view from the dorms of the Caribbean sunrise and sunset and the gentle ocean breeze
and the hot-ass
nights and mosquitoes and palm trees everywhere and exotic plants that I’d
never seen in person, from bananas to mangos to coconuts to passion fruits to
aloe and the bright orange crabs and lizards skittering around in the grasses
and the adorable black-winged seagulls and the bridge over the mangroves, which
is, I might mention, made out of recycled rubber...
We were sweaty and gross, but the views made up for any struggles we had ten-fold.
(Now, I must admit I didn’t take too many pictures of our adventures, since others had Go Pros and fancy devices like that, but I do have some shots from around the campus I’ll share.)
First, check out the dorms.
|Yup, they're those parabola-shaped buildings.|
They’re not too large, nothing more than necessary for a weeklong stay. In the center you can see the Octagon, where the entire group met for meetings.
But check out the view.
|Pretty nice, eh?|
That was taken from just outside the Octagon. There’s a short path to a little beach on the Caribbean literally 10 meters from where we sleep. Crazy shit, that is.
|Another artsy shot from outside the Octagon.|
The sunrise was beautiful as well. As we brushed our hair in the morning just outside the dorms (since we were told not to brush our hair inside, as that would get the hair everywhere—which is honestly a good point), we were treated to this gorgeous oceanscape.
|Didn't make it much easier getting up at 6:00 am every day, though.|
But when it was sunny and cloudless, the ocean was even prettier, as it turned a bright, fake-looking turquoise. You feel me, right? When something is so beautiful it doesn’t even look real?
|View from the boathouse.|
This is where I learned to snorkel. Super rad.
|We swam around in the little nook to the left.|
One of the coolest parts of campus is the mangrove, crossed by a bridge made of recycled rubber.
|And here is a wild solar panel spotted in its natural mangrove habitat.|
Off to the side of the bridge was a cute little hut. Perfect for a little relaxing after dinner and contemplating the mangroves and the sunset and whatnot.
In case you weren’t aware, mangroves—which happen to be endangered thanks to shrimp farming and ocean-side developments—are water-dwelling trees with visible networks of roots stretching in every direction, sometimes even producing creepy-looking pneumatophores. They are terrific at holding down soil and supporting the growth of small fish.
|This mangrove system is fairly small, so we took to calling it a "boy-grove".|
The Island School also has three buildings with green roofs—not cultivated ones, but simply roofs where wild plants grow naturally. Here’s one of them.
|You'll notice the scraggly little tree growing on top.|
They also have a couple wind turbines—which, believe it or not, did not actually ruin the view of the Caribbean, as some anti-wind power NIMBY-activists would have you believe.
|We hardly ever noticed it.|
My favorite part of the trip was observing all the wildlife, which I’ll talk about next post (because holy shit this is getting long already)—and some of that was actually on the campus itself. Since, of course, you don’t get coconut-bearing palm trees in New England.
|This kind of tree was EVERYWHERE. COCONUTS UPON COCONUTS.|
There were tons of butterflies too. I thought they were monarchs at first (since that’s what you usually see where I live) but their wing coloration was different.
|Very pretty though.|
The seagulls, as well, were different. Not pure white with a little bit of grey, but mostly black and grey with a white breast.
|These, too, were everywhere.|
Oh, and check out this tree. I forget the species (of course I do), but I was intrigued by its unusual tallness and skinniness.
|Couldn't even fit the whole thing in one shot.|
That’s it for pictures today, folks. I’ll tell you more about the trip later, since there is just so much to talk about. If you’re interested. Let me know if this was boring as hell, because obviously I’m not a good judge of my own boring-ness myself.
So let’s talk about meringues instead, just for now.
|Not exactly a Bahamas-y treat.|
I made these a couple weeks back just for shits and giggles, seeing as I’ve made meringue-infused desserts on the blog but never any actual meringue cookies. Plus, meringues are a crucial stylistic element in Katherine Sabbath-style cakes, a style I hope to try out sometime this summer. It will be helpful to know that yes, Hannah Kaminsky’s genius vegan meringue recipe actually works really well and tastes fabulous—and it’s not even made with gross chickpea piss (sorrynotsorry) but Ener-g egg replacer. Personally, I’m a little more confident in using a prepackaged powder that is actually meant to be used like an egg than in draining a can of garbanzo beans every time I want to make something with meringue.
Yeah I’m a little salty about it.
|*cue DEAL WITH IT glasses*|
This recipe incorporates not only freeze-dried raspberries but a bit of rosewater, which I recently obtained for some future culinary experiments. The combination of tart fruit and floral scents is perfect. Highly recommended. Expect to see more rosewater in the future.
Here’s the recipe.
Vegan raspberry swirl rosewater meringues
Adapted from Vegan Desserts by Hannah Kaminsky
7 grams • freeze-dried raspberries • ¼ cup
21 grams • Ener-g egg replacer • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons
90 grams • water • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
50 grams • granulated sugar • ¼ cup
4 grams • rosewater • 1 teaspoon
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place raspberries in a food processer and grind into a fine powder. Set aside.
Place egg replacer and water in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat on high speed for about 5 minutes, until the mixture reaches stiff peaks. With mixer still running, slowly begin to stream in granulated sugar. Beat for another 5 minutes until the mixture is very fluffy and near stiff peaks. Add rosewater and beat to combine. Beat in freeze-dried raspberry powder for a few seconds, just to mix it in.
Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe nice dollops of meringue on the baking sheet, between 1 and 2 inches in diameter. Alternatively, just plop meringue on there with a spoon.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the surfaces no longer appear shiny and the meringues are dry to the touch. Do not brown the meringues—they would be way overcooked by then. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Oh, and did I mention that we met Jack Johnson at the Island School early on in our stay? He was vising to lend his weight to a conference about plastic and its unfortunate relationship with the ocean, being an activist himself. You may recognize him from this.