Torments of Love

By Kimberly Krol

You might not think I’m going to write about dessert, but, in fact, I am. I spent last week cruising the Caribbean on a mother-daughter trip. We both agreed Terre-de-Haut, Les Saintes, Guadeloupe, was one of our favorite stops. We loved the vibe of the town, its Parisian feel and the charm and buzz of the streets.

A large mural greeted travelers in many different languages, and included a basket full of pie-like pastries. As we wandered the tiny streets, I spotted several locals setting up trays and baskets selling the pastries from the mural. Clearly, these were a local specialty and I had to have some. I’ve learned from traveling over the years to always indulge in local treats — and this worked out well, as my mom and I both share a sweet tooth.

© Kim Krol

© Kim Krol

As Terre-de-Haut is French, they accept the euro. Many of the other islands we visited accepted the U.S. dollar, so we didn’t have euros on us at the moment. We’d planned to use credit cards, but I knew the local artisans wouldn’t take my American Express. Then I heard another traveler saying every nearby ATM was out of order. We also had the warning of the ship’s destination manager in our head, alerting us the island’s stores typically closed for lunch from noon-ish until 3 p.m. We had to act fast.

We caught the next tender to the ship, exchanged $20 onboard, caught the next tender back to shore and set off in the direction of the first house we’d seen selling the treats. There, we purchased a pack of guava, but my mom wanted to try the coconut version as well. Off in the other direction, we tracked them down.

Afterward, back in our stateroom as we indulged in half of each flavor, I was keen to learn more, so I Googled the delicacy. I had tried to ask the purveyors, but, as I’m not fluent in French, the language barrier interfered. According to my research, a local Terre-de-Haut girl fell in love with a sailor. He was called away, but with the promise of his return by a certain date. In anticipation, the girl prepared the aforementioned pastries. The sailor was delayed a few days and returned to find his love had taken her own life from the torment. Since, women on the island have made the dessert, known as tourment d’amour or love’s torment, for their sailors as a charm to bring them home safely.

It made our trek to purchase some all the more worthwhile knowing the lore of the pastry and that it is truly authentic to the town. Coconut is the traditional flavor, but, today, you can also find guava, banana and anise versions.