For me, food is not a big deal. I eat because I have to. I don’t usually compare or rank different dishes; food is either good or bad. That being said, I had the pleasure of enjoying the world’s best tasting chicken. I don’t care for poultry; I am a seafood guy.
Like any other great discovery, finding the chicken was an accident. Before I begin the tale, I’ll write about my first international experience with native cuisine.
My first trip outside of the United States was to Cancun, Mexico. I was accompanied by my cousins, whose names will be replaced by super heroes, because one of them was actually a super hero! We’ll go with Ice Man, Incredible Hulk, and Hancock. During the flight, we had a discussion with two of the flight attendants; one male and one female. The man had a lisp so, no matter how hungry I was, I couldn’t bring myself to accept his offer for a snack. Hancock was the only one who said yes to, “do you wan sum peanussss.” (It was hilarious! If he said salty peanussss, I would have died of laughter!)
The suggestion of the attendants, was for us to venture out and experience the real culture. They said we shouldn’t just eat from American restaurants. It seemed like sound advice, so we agreed. (Big MISTAKE!)
We boarded the bus and rode towards the center of town. I have never felt so tall in my life; for the most part, the people in Mexico are really short. As you can probably imagine, we stuck out. Not only did we have on new clothing and footwear, but we were considered tall. The thirty-five cent coke bottles were a great deal, but there was no way in hell we were adventurous enough to actually try some of the food; I’m no Andrew Zimmern! (The hanging meat in most of the shop windows just didn’t look appetizing!)
We received a lot of attention and our “gang-dar” was on high alert so we hopped right back on the next bus. Although the expedition to the center of town was a flop, the desire to eat authentic Mexican cuisine remained.
One night, after punishing our livers at the bar, we decided to eat at a small restaurant in the middle of an alley. (Bigger MISTAKE!)
The next morning, was horrible; we were violently ill. It was a complete waste of a day. We spent the hours passing around bottles of Mylanta as if they were forty ounce bottles of malt liquor. That was the end of our adventurous spirit; it was American fast food for the remainder of our vacation. There would be no more “real” food experience. (I love McDonald’s!)
My second trip outside of the United States is where I found the world’s best tasting chicken. We went to Negril, Jamaica. The trip to Cancun was fresh on my mind, so I wasn’t looking forward to any “real” food experiences.
I was accompanied by Ice Man, Hancock, and a different cousin, Iron Man. Our destination was Negril, but there is no airport near the city so we had to fly to Montego Bay. We didn’t book a shuttle and ended up taking a two hour cab ride. (We literally risked our lives!)
It is assumed that Jamaica is the Marijuana capital of the western hemisphere; I can verify the reputation to be true. We barely took one step outside of the airport exit, before being offered some weed; some of the dealers were teenagers. We declined all offers and found a cab driver who offered us a flat rate. He was a really cool guy. Obviously, he also offered us some marijuana. (Weed is literally everywhere in Jamaica!)
The best and most dangerous part of the ride was the fact that the driver suggested for us to stop at a local store for some beers. We purchased a case and some ice before leaving. The trip had many challenges. The road is only one lane on each side and it winds close to the ocean; sometimes too close to the cliff. The degree of difficulty was increased because most of the cars were speeding. We thought it would be a good gesture to offer the cabbie a beer; completely expecting him to turn down our generosity. He gladly agreed and downed the bottle in one massive gulp. (The more we drank, the less we cared! After all, he was a professional cabbie!)
Three bottles pounded later, Ice Man, who was sober, vetoed the beer offers allowing us to arrive safely. Jamaica is completely different from Mexico; the water is safe to drink. There was no fear of becoming violently ill, so we ventured out to a local restaurant and had some great “real” food. (Shout out to Red Stripe and Ting mixed with Wray and Nephew!)
At night, we hopped into a cab and said to the driver, “Take us to get some real Jamaican food.” The cabbie did as we ordered, and we arrived at a late night hot spot. It was Mexico all over again. There were hanging meats and authentic cuisine. It was a little too real for us. We walked in then quickly walked out; it was awkward.
The cab driver suggested that we try some jerk chicken from one of the roadside stands, and surprisingly, we agreed. The chicken was amazing. The cabbie, who was hip to the local scene, begged us to go to a nearby strip club, but Iron man and Ice Man wanted to get some sleep. We returned to the hotel and they got out of the cab. I, along with Hancock, decided to have an adventure. It was an experience that I will never forget. (This was my first and only strip club visit. The experience is probably why I never have a desire to make the dollars rain on a hoe!)
We finished the chicken and hopped back in the cab. (Now that I look back on it, the cab driver had a great night. We paid for the ride, we bought him some chicken and a drink in the strip club!) The club was at the end of a narrow street. Cars were parked along the road leading up to the entrance. The cabbie found a space and led us in. There was a woman inside of a cage who accepted our payment. The first room was dimly lit and there were men standing along the walls. They were watching two pool tables located in the center of the room. I’ve never been ice-grilled by so many people before. We stuck out like the penis of a horny priest, wearing white pants, in the stands during a little league baseball game! (No offense to Catholics! I was going to say a sore thumb, but I’ve never seen a sore thumb; I don’t think they stick out as much as people say they do! I guess it’s just another dumb saying!)
After the pool table room, we entered the main lounge. There was a bar at one end and tables all over the place. There was an octagon cage in the center of the room. Picture a UFC ring with shorter fences. (Yes, the fence was chain linked!) Two strippers were dancing in the middle and several more strippers were walking around the room, flirting with the men. We made our way to the bar and ordered some drinks. (This was the grimiest scene ever!) Strippers approached us and offered sex for money. The Anthropologist in me indulged one. Here is our conversation:
Me: “How much?”
Stripper: “One hundred American dollars.”
[I thought the price was a bit steep.]
Me: “No thanks; the spring break girls are giving it away for free on the beach!”
[For some reason, she didn’t like my reply.]
Stripper: “That’s American pussy. You want this Jamaican pussy!”
[She knew me so well! How did she know I wanted that Jamaican pussy.]
I bought another drink and purchased one for her; not because I was trying to be nice or anything. She literally begged me for a drink. Hancock and I banged our drinks and got the hell out of there. The cabbie was upset. “We have to stay to watch the sex show.” No thanks pal, let’s get far away from this place. I could see that some of the men had plans on removing us from the burden of having to carry our money in our pockets! (Never follow a cabbie to a strip club in the middle of nowhere!)
The next day, we spoke with a member of the hotel staff and mentioned the jerk chicken. He said, “if you liked the chicken, ask a cab driver to take you to ‘Step Aside;’ he’s the best.” We agreed and spoke with one of the cabbies who hung around the hotel. He agreed to take us and became our designated cab driver. He literally waited for us to wake up in the morning and drove us to any and all locations. (I’ll talk more about him, soon!)
It was a short ride to the stand. We approached the chef and asked for Negril’s best jerk chicken. His name was Marshall and he corrected us; “my chicken is the best in the world.” There was one problem, he wasn’t ready to serve any customers; there was a process. We were disappointed but he had a great suggestion. “Go down to the beach and sit at the bar. Get some beers, look at the pretty ladies and come back in an hour or so. I will have the chicken ready for you guys!” (Going to that bar was the best thing that happened on the trip!)
We ordered drinks from the bar and enjoyed the ocean view. There were two older guys sitting near us. They were in their sixties; one man was Jamaican and the other was white. The white guy was extremely friendly so he engaged us in a conversation. We learned that he was originally from Canada. A friend of his asked him to take a trip to Negril in 1977, and they started the spring break scene. He fell in love with the place and never left. His name was DJ White Boy from Risky Business and he was the coolest guy in town.
DJ White Boy
DJ White Boy asked us about our icebreaker for bagging women and we all pointed to Ice Man. In fact, it was DJ White Boy who gave the Ice Man his name. He didn’t believe us so he gave the group a challenge. There were two girls walking along the water and one was extremely beautiful; her friend was also cute. Unbeknownst to DJ White Boy, we met the girls earlier in the day. He challenged Ice Man to approach them. It was like taking candy from a baby. (Now that’s a saying I can understand!) He agreed that we had a great icebreaker if Ice Man was successful. Long story short, DJ White Boy was impressed and he dubbed my cousin the Ice Man. We became his Boston Boys and we enjoyed the VIP treatment for the remainder of the trip. He even introduced us to his wife and we had lunch with the two of them. (Two of the best people I have ever met!)
We returned to Step Aside, and enjoyed the best tasting chicken in the world. The short cab ride to the hotel was silent; except for the sound of four guys devouring some chicken. I exited the cab, followed by Iron Man. Hancock got out of the front seat, but Ice Man only managed to get one foot out. He said, “I’m going back for some more!” We all laughed as we watched the cab drive off. When he returned he told us that Marshall laughed his ass off when he arrived. For the remainder of the trip, we ate Marshall’s chicken every day; sometimes two or three times. (It was literally the best chicken in the world, and I don’t even really like chicken!)
We became good friends of Marshall’s; to the point that he actually called the Ice Man a few months after we returned to Boston. He wanted to know when we planned on returning to Negril! On one occasion, we drove out to Marshall’s stand, but he wasn’t there. Apparently, the reggae artist, Elephant Man had a concert and Marshall was serving food at the event. We learned the information in a funny manner. There was a cart in Marshall’s spot and the guy asked us to buy his chicken, which he claimed to be the best. When we asked about Step Aside, he responded, “How do you know about him?” The guy told us about the concert, then said, “I’m the second best in Jamaica; my name is Step Around.” It was funny, but his chicken was clearly not on par. (Always go with the original! Always Coca-Cola!)
One afternoon, we decided to walk along the beach on our way back to the hotel. Ice Man wanted to make a quick run to Step Aside so he agreed to take a cab after eating. He left a large tip then hailed a cab. He didn’t realize it, but he was out of cash and the cab driver was cool about the situation. Ice Man promised the cabbie that we would pay the fare and allow him to take us to our destination in the evening. Everything went according to plan, until the following day. Our regular cabbie was sad, almost crying, when we walked out in the morning. We asked why? And he explained that he saw us take another cab the previous night. We explained the situation and promised to keep him as our exclusive driver. (The money they make during the spring break season holds them down for the year! We felt so bad!)
On the final night, we were tired but decided to go to the event anyway. DJ White Boy was working a different event, so we stopped and said good-bye because our plane departed early in the morning. We had to leave as soon as we left the event; we packed before leaving for the night. We thanked DJ White Boy for showing us a great time and left for the event after some farewell drinks. We also stopped by to see Marshall.
The Event was horrible. The DJ sucked and the crowd was dead; we assumed everyone was wiped out. About an hour after we arrived, the atmosphere remained the same. To our surprise, DJ White Boy arrived on stage. He grabbed the microphone from the DJ and promised to get the party started. DJ White Boy stood on stage for fifteen minutes screaming the same thing. “WILL THE ICE MAN COME TO THE STAGE?” We couldn’t believe it. Ice Man didn’t want to go but we forced him. DJ White Boy was excited to see him and the place went crazy. The atmosphere improved and the rest of the night was great. We said good-bye to DJ White Boy once again and rushed to the hotel. Our cab driver made the two hour drive to Montego Bay and we thanked him for a great week.
We were still drunk at six thirty in the morning. Our plane was scheduled to leave at eight, but the terminal was completely empty, except for a few workers, mulling about. After an hour, we learned the flight was canceled. “Why?” Because they didn’t have a plane! I SHIT YOU NOT!
They placed us on stand-by and the first flight left at twelve thirty. Ice Man and Hancock were lucky enough to make it on the flight, but I had to wait for the next flight along with Iron Man. It was the shittiest experience ever. We had to exit customs and go through the entire screening process a second time. Luckily we made it on the two thirty flight. We arrived in Charlotte and were surprised to see Ice Man and Hancock walk onto our plane. Apparently, they sat on the tarmac for two hours while the maintenance crew serviced their plane. We all flew back to Boston; it was a trip we would never forget!
I plan on returning to Negril in the near future!