During my first day in Christiansted, St. Croix, I took to wandering. I find that drifting through residential areas, away from expensive boutiques and restaurants, is an excellent way to encounter little out-of-the-way places that serve the locals. When I travel, what I want is food I can pretty much get only in whatever place I’m visiting.
On that inaugural stroll, I came upon a place that looked very promising: Harvey’s. I had a lunch date elsewhere, but I made a mental note to return to this small, unprepossessing though well-decorated, storefront. What was most intriguing were menu items I’d never heard of before, like Conch in Butter Sauce and Stew Old Wife.
On my last day in St. Croix, we had a chance to stop by Harvey’s and I sampled a number of dishes, including Stew Old Wife, which is actually fish with vegetables. The fish is called Old Wife. The skin of this fish is so rough, Mr. Harvey told us, that “sailors used to clean the decks of their ships with it. Like steel wool.
Harvey also told us that “reef fish, like Old Wife and Pot Fish, have lots of bones. That’s why we serve fungi: to push it through.”
Fungi is made of finely ground cornmeal and okra and presented as a kind of dry dumpling, soft, almost gelatinous. It’s good to have something big and bready like this when eating fish with little bones because if you do swallow a bone, the fungi will pad it out and help “push it through.”
I detected only a few bones in my Old Wife, but one of my fellow journalists ordered Pot Fish, and she sifted through quite a few bones. Both fish, however, were pleasant, mild tasting, and benefitted from the homemade pepper sauce that Harvey’s puts on every table.
It was also at Harvey’s that I had callaloo, usually a soup made with the namesake vegetable, which is a leafy green somewhat like spinach (and which could actually be either amaranth or taro leaves or some other leaf). My callaloo had vegetables and fish in it, but my understanding is that the basic soup – West African in origin – can contain any one of a number of things, including beef or crab, but it must contain the leaf to be called “callaloo” on the menu.
No fish story would be complete without mention of the One that Got Away. For me, that one was Paulina’s, a little restaurant about two blocks from Harvey’s that I was not able to visit. On the menu, they listed Man Soup. I can only wonder what that soup might have been.
11B Company St
Christiansted, Virgin Islands 00820