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Bermuda: Another World
IVU News 2-97

photoThis 21 square mile (50 sq. km) paradise in the western Atlantic some 770 miles (1,200 km) south-east of New York and some 900 miles (1,400 km) north-east of the Bahamas consists of a hook-shaped main island with about 10 smaller islands at either end joined to the mainland by bridges and causeways. A self-governing country and at the same time a British crown colony, Bermuda has a very high population density, but also plenty of open spaces. With houses randomly dotted here and there and an abundance of flora, this high density is visible only from the air, when gleaming whitewashed roofs stand out in stark contrast to the perennial greenery. Bermuda has no natural water supply and therefore depends on rain which is caught on the specially constructed and treated roofs and channelled into underground storage tanks.

Sixty per cent. of the population of 60,000 are of African origin, the majority of whom arrived via the West Indies. The remaining population is from Europe, the USA and the Azores. The main language is English, with a small minority speaking Portuguese. Tourism and insurance/reinsurance account for much of the national income and the several thousand guest workers from around the world give the place a cosmopolitan flavour. The cost of living is high, but so is the standard of living and most Bermudians have sufficient disposable income for travel and material pleasures.

There are no records of how long vegetarianism has been practised in Bermuda, nor any statistics on the number of vegetarians on the island. As adherents of the Seventh Day Adventist faith arrived at the end of the 1800s, however, it may be assumed that a minority of the population were already choosing to abstain from meat. As in many other countries, however, at that time a large percentage of the population lived off the land and due to economic necessity rarely if ever ate meat. Due to the proximity of the United States, however, North American tastes and activities tend to be rapidly adopted on the island and adapted to the local way of life.

Bermudians are fond of eating, arranging picnics, potlucks, church dinners and family feasts to celebrate the smallest occasions. The traditional fare of fried chicken, peas and rice (with chourico, a fatty, spicy Portuguese sausage), coleslaw, macaroni cheese, potato salad and farine or cassava pie (made with lots of eggs, butter and meat) has created an unhealthy population with an extremely high incidence of diabetes and the North American rate for all other major diseases. Despite this, as in so many countries, most people are unwilling to give up familiar eating patterns. There is, however, a growing segment of the population who realise that they must change their way of eating. It is therefore becoming easier and easier to find vegetarian options on the menu at restaurants. Moreover, Bermudian eateries are of such a high standard that even if non-meat non-dairy items are not listed the chef will create a vegetarian or vegan dish to order.

As all meat in Bermuda is imported, there is far less awareness of the slaughterhouses and battery farms from which these imports derive. As a result, health rather than animal welfare is the main reason for becoming vegetarian, although some environmental concerns have arisen in recent times. Economy is also not a major reason as Bermudians are accustomed to spending a lot of money on food.

At various times in the past decade, groups have operated vegetarian restaurants which have subsequently closed for one reason or another. A year or so ago, a natural foods restaurant called Seasons in the Sun was opened. Although it, too, has struggled, the owners believe that vegetarian food must be available even though it may be many years before profits are seen. A couple of new lunchtime vegetarian eateries have also recently entered the very competitive arena of high quality fast food nothing is fast in Bermuda and there is a distinct sense of mañana about the place, but all things are relative...

Obtaining ingredients for cooking is not a problem. There are three stores dedicated to selling natural foods and a few larger supermarkets have jumped on the bandwagon and now stock various vegetarian essentials. However, it is still a struggle to maintain a consistent supply of quality organic vegetables and fruit. Two supermarkets attempt to supply organic produce, but often by the time it has made the extra journey across the Atlantic it is not so fresh-looking and the greengrocer refuses to display it; even if it does make it to the shelves, customers not yet convinced of the value and benefits of organic food will bypass the wilted organic spinach in favour of the crisper-looking variety grown locally in nutrient-poor soil.

The local Vegetarian Society has been in existence for nearly three years. It arranges regular potluck dinners, is active at health fairs providing the public with information, produces a newsletter every other month (which is mailed to 200 people) and sponsors an annual one-day health and fitness extravaganza which attracts about 500 people. We have a small lending library for the use of members of the society and we regularly advise vegetarian visitors to the island on where to eat. Like most societies, we could be more active with more volunteer people-power. However, we are still a young organisation and we are confident that by keeping alive the vision of the founder members our membership and activities will gradually increase as time goes on.

flag Anyone planning a trip to Bermuda (there are regular direct flights from the UK and North America) and wishing to know where to find good vegetarian food is welcome to contact us and well point you in the right direction.

- Hilary Evans

[The current - 2008 - address: Vegetarian Society of Bermuda, PO Box DV678, Devonshire DVBX, Bermuda.- email: ]

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