by Anesta Henry
Noreen Doughlin is one of the hidden secrets of Barbados’ tourism industry.
No, she is not that best employee at a hotel, nor that tour guide who always wears a special smile.
Tourists from all over the world have eaten from her pot, after being taken to her home by taxi. The traditional home-cooked Bajan meal she prepares in her kitchen and serves to tourists at the dining table of her Shorey Village, St Andrew home, with a glass of natural juice, or even beer, is definitely worthy of recognition.
Noreen, who has an infectious personality, told Barbados TODAY today –– as she prepared some baked pork, turkey wings, macaroni pie, green peas and rice, and steamed vegetables seasoned with herbs from her kitchen garden for a group of tourists scheduled to stop by –– that what she did was “not for money”, but for the love of her island and making “my little contribution to the tourism industry”.
Noreen shared her inspiring story, which has never been told before. The 59-year-old mother of three said it all began over two decades ago when she made friends with a couple from Liverpool, England, whom she met at the popular Nigel Benn Aunty Bar, located opposite her home.
“They would come at the bar and drink the whole day. I realized that they would be hungry; so I started doing macaroni pie and flying fish for them, or cou cou. Now, whenever that couple come, I would cook for them, and make things for them to take back home,” she explained.
Over the years, tourists who visit the bar have been exposed to Noreen’s special treats, including the traditional Bajan fish cakes and pumpkin fritters, along with a glass of mauby if desired.
“I love cooking for the tourists . . . . If I get any money from doing it, it is really to put back into the food to cook for another set,” she said, seemingly quite passionate about her hobby.
Some people don’t like others showing up at their door uninvited. But this is not the case of Noreen and her friend Carson Moore, the Travel Advisory-recommended taxi driver who calls her at short notice to request that she prepares a meal for the group of visitors he is touring with.
“He just calls me and says, ‘Noreen, you cook?’, and I would say, ‘No, Carson’. Then he would tell me, ‘Well, I’m coming with a group from Europe’ –– or a couple from somewhere.
“And I would always have things there to cook. So I would just get into the kitchen and start whipping up that meal. He would call me during the tour and say, ‘Well, I getting closer’, or ‘I will be running late’,” she explained.
How did the relationship between Noreen and this taxi driver start?
The cook with a difference said that one day she was outside enjoying some fried rice when Moore, who was at the nearby bar with three tourists, came over and asked if she had any more food left in the pot.
“The colour of the rice is what really caught the eyes of one of the guys. One of the guys asked Carson to ask me if I had any more food and Carson come and ask me if I selling.
“I said ‘no’, and he asked me if I didn’t have any more. Then he asked me if I would start doing some food for some tourists . . . . And Carson has been bringing people to enjoy my food ever since,” Noreen said.
“Up to Sunday he brought an African couple here; and the lady was pregnant; and the husband told me she doesn’t like to eat. I said to her, ‘You have to eat; you need to feed that baby’.
“I got her to eat that food. When they were leaving, I give them a pawpaw,” a beaming Noreen added.
As he enjoyed today’s meals with the group he was taking on tour, Moore told Barbados TODAY that he was always amazed at Noreen’s readiness whenever he called her.
“And people like her because she is friendly and speaks to them well. People who come here usually enjoy this part of the tour,” Moore said.
The tourists do not only benefit from scrumptious meals, but they also learn about what they are eating. Noreen takes time out to explain the importance of pork and Blackbelly lamb to the island’s culture and heritage.
“In my own way I trying to help the industry. I have to because this is what the country depends on, and we need the tourists to keep coming back. The tourists enjoy it, and I do too.”
Laura McCoffrey, who was at Noreen’s with her father David McCoffrey and friend Jacqueline Mackey, said the opportunity to be allowed into a stranger’s home for a meal was a rare opportunity, especially in another country.
“The meal was excellent,” Laura said. email@example.com