April 12, 2013 – We just finished working on a program for a long-time client from the New York area.
Before coming, I read about the rescue effort to find forever homes for local “mutts” (I use the term in a loving way). The potcakes, as they are called in Turks and Caicos are short-haired floppy eared dogs. The breed mix is up for debate. In Grand Turks we were told that it’s an aristocratic mix. They look to me like Rhodesian ridgebacks mixed with a smaller breed.
These dogs run around freely on the streets and in restauarnts. The Turks and Caicos Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in 2000 and they have a program for spaying and neutering feral dogs and adopting potcake puppies. They are called potcakes because they were fed the cooked on part of rice and grits from cooking pots. Most of the dogs we saw running around town in Provo and Grand Turk sport collars and “belong” to someone. Unlike strays that you see in many countries, potcakes run freely in the streets. They are well fed and appear to be cared for.
At the Caicos Marina, Mama’s is more a kitchen than restaurant with a picnic table in front. There is no sign and the locals know her, popping in and taking their lunch to go. The dish served the day we were there was delicious and rustic…my kind of food. It was a flavorful stew made with long-cooked bones and very little meat, lots of stewed greens in a tomatoey sauce accompanied by a huge pile of white rice. A cup of pureed black beans came with the meal. That stuff poured over the rice was heaven. The beans had a wonderful smokey flavor. We gave all the food that was left from the generous lunch serving to the two potcakes waiting patiently. Mama told us the seven potcakes that live at the Marina are seen going for a swim together every morning.
After the great project on Provo (short for Providenciales) that went really well, Kris and I looked forward to diving in Grand Turks, famous for some of the best in diving in the world. I also looked forward to putting away my “real” camera and having fun with my iPhone (all photos in this post are from my iPhone). Diving on Grand Turk is so easy. We dove with Blue Water Divers and their boat picked us up on the beach right outside the door to our room. In a few minutes, the boat arrives at one of the forty dive sites along the wall that drops several thousand feet. Visibility of 100 feet is common and the reef is alive with coral, sponges, parrot fish, butterfly fish, grouper, puffers, and the beautiful, but invasive lion fish. I couldn’t wait to try out my new Watershot iPhone housing. The calm, warm water made diving a pleasure indeed. That’s why we came!
One day after a two-tank dive on Grand Turk, we stopped for lunch at the Secret Garden at the Salt Mill Inn. All three of the restaurants in town post the menu on chalkboards. Since they are all closeby, you can check each one out before deciding what you feel like eating. We ordered the conch fritters which is on every menu. I love the chewy bits of conch fried in batter and dipped in a mayonnaise-based sauce. Fish is a good call in the islands and the grouper proved to be wonderful. Colorful pepper, spice and onion flavored vinegar in glass bottles was a fabulous accompaniment for the fish. An assortment of Scotch Bonnet sauces from Jamaica was also on the counter – but not for me. Scotch Bonnets are so darn hot that they overpower the food. We sat at the bar with the cigarette smoking, wine drinking German woman who managed the restaurant and a salty, young dive guide talking about the potcakes. Her poor potcake had cancer and she was going to fly to Provo with him because there are no veterinarians on the island. Later that day, we ran into the woman walking her potcake, Steven. In his mouth was a can of Alpo dogfood. Steven insists on carrying something from the market to help. I would be flying him anywhere to cure him.
At the Sand Bar and Atrium restaurants they hand out and passively beg for food. They collected at our table when entrees arrived at our table. If you love dogs as much as we do, this is charming.
When the temperature cooled off, we went for a walk through town. The Sand Box Restaurant is closed on Saturdays so a guy stringing necklaces from beach glass, shells and beads. Nearby on the beach, I noticed a mostly white potcake lying in the sand looking out at the ocean. We walked for a block when we noticed this guy following us. He wore a wide beaded turquoise collar and had a few black and brown markings. Kris and I love the company of dogs so we enjoyed him as we walked down the oceanside street named Duke or Main – it wasn’t clear where one ended and the other began. We passed lovely colonial homes in pastel colors some with large metal plaques that told about previous owners and their history. There were quite a few empty lots so the view of the Caribbean blue ocean contrasted by the white coral sand was visible from the street.
At the liquor store, there were piles of cases of beer. But there was also a selection of wines and champagne. Yeah! I found my Veuve Cliquot and we treated ourselves to a bottle for drinking on the deck. We were surprised to come out of the liquor store to find our little potcake waiting for us.
Salt was the main export of this island in the colonial days. Fields of salt called salinas where shallow water evaporated leaving the salt residue which was harvested by slaves. The shallow water salina remains and our potcake found a crab to chomp on along the shore.
We stopped at the local grocery store called Cee’s. Our our travels, I always stop at grocery stores to see what local culinary treasure I can find. This one was not very interesting to me as it stocked imports from the US…mostly processed foods. There were no fresh meats and the produce offering was limited to those with long shelf lives such as limes, potatoes, and onions.
Our potcake friend stayed with us until we returned to our hotel. I entered our room from the ocean side so he could follow us, but he seemed to know he was not allowed there. Beside, the visiting RV pilots were having a pizza party poolside. These guys from Iowa, California, and other states build really cool planes and fly them to a dive destination and hang out for a few days. The lightweight planes don’t carry enough fuel to make the trip without stops so they have to plan for refueling. They were great dive buddies…well-equipped and well-trained. Potcake Place is a animal rescue and store in the Salt Mills shopping complex in Provo. We loaded up on Potcake Place baseball caps for our friend and vet, Carole and her staff and for our dog-loving friends. The work that Potcake Place does is finding forever homes for the feral pups that are found and turned in to them. Even though a few veterinarians from Canada donate their time to come down to spay and neuter, the poulation of feral dogs is too large to control. While we were there, two puppies were being transported by volunteers to their new homes in Canada. Interested people can email them and they will send photos of available puppies.
Our final night in Grand Turk was at the Atrium restaurant in the Osprey Hotel. Lobster season officially closed today – April 15. No lobster allowed – not even in the freezers of restaurants. I love this law here in Turks and Caico. Three resident potcakes were there to help with any leftovers.They didn’t beg aggressively…they just let you know they were there and interested. Dinner at the Atrium was a community that included tourists and locals. It was a great way to say good-bye to this lovely island to return home to ours.
Donate to Potcakes Place: http://www.potcakeplace.com/
For more photos, please visit the web gallery on Flickr: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjGeH1dw