A hike along the eastern beaches of Rodrigues island has the potential to work up quite a bit of an appetite. Even a simple meal would have been heaven after a hike, but then my driver Jean-Paul takes me to La Belle Rodriguaise for a barbecue on the beach. Françoise Baptiste has been hosting a cooking class for a couple of French guests all morning and by the time we arrive the fish and crayfish is just about to come off the fire.
It all smells wonderful and everyone looks proud of their communal cooking effort and what they have learned from Françoise, who complied local recipes from all over the island in a recipe book called ‘Les délices de Rodrigues’. It is clear as she welcomes me to the party that Françoise is only too happy to share her love of food with like minded people.
Together with her husband Laval, they run a guesthouse in Graviers on the south east of Rodrigues, with a gorgeous view from each of the 12 refreshing rooms. La Belle Rodriguaise also has a splash pool and can organize kite surfing and mountain biking excursions on request, says Laval. There are also numerous hiking trails in the immediate area as I just found out for myself.
The Baptistes have created a simple stone barbecue area and a thatched veranda on the beach outside their guesthouse where they set up a table for lunch overlooking the lagoon and the fishing boats. I see the pure joy of this moment reflected in all of the guests’ faces as I take a sip of my rum cocktail, this time mixed with lime, honey and fresh fruit juice.
I decide not to sit at the table and instead bury my feet in the soft sea sand and sit down on a low log bench with Jean-Paul. We feast on the seafood, bread, preserves, chili pastes and salads in an awed silence, occasionally getting topped up by our hosts. I also really enjoy the red pork with yellow rice and red beans which is also part of the large buffet of dishes prepared during the lesson. The cooking party crowd provides a festive soundtrack of laughter and a little further away a young romantic couple is enjoying a private moment at a neatly set up table slightly separate from the rest. Joy, love, natural beauty and great food; I am overflowing with gratitude.
After lunch some of the guests enjoy massages in a private nook on the beach, waves hushing in the distance. They deserve it after a long morning of food preparation and learning. I enjoy an amazing espresso made from freshly ground local coffee beans and have a look through Françoise’s cookbook, conjuring up more beautiful foodie dreams.