The flavorful National Dishes and all other foods of the Caribbean were influenced by the islands' migrant culture. Most of the food in the Caribbean came from somewhere else. Slaves from Africa who were forced to leave their homelands in Africa were creative in preparing the entrails that were given to them by the Plantation owners. Some of the dishes the slave owners brought with them from Europe evolved from less flavorful to become more tasty because of the spices and herbs found in the Caribbean.Once slavery was curtailed they sought new labor by bringing migrants from China and India and this further caused the food in the Caribbean to evolve introducing, rice, curries, noodles and stir-fry. Even the starchy yet delicious breadfruit many of us islanders grew up eating came from elsewhere and made it to the islands after much ado involving a mutiny on a ship called 'The Bounty' and the now infamous British Captain Bligh. .When I was growing up in Barbados, an early Saturday morning meant a trip downtown to the market for the freshest of meat, vegetables, fruit and ground provisions such as yam, sweet potato, yucca, plantain. The calls of the hawkers (women who sold their fare in the market place) calling out trying to coerce my mom to buy sweet mangoes and sour sop here, just-enough-ripe breadfruit over there or guava, scallion and hot, red chili peppers to make homemade seasoning, "come get it fresh and sweet here dahling", were the words I would hear as my mother tried to navigate between the concrete slabs where they stood guarding their colorful bounty.The bunches of sweet smelling, fresh thyme, parsley, chive, lemon and lime were all neatly tucked away in a plastic bag atop the shopping bag brimming with the smells I came to associate with my homeland in later years when nostalgia overcame me.By the time the sun made its way up to register the noon hour we were back home ready to relax after a nice delicious bowl of pudding and souse (blood sausage made with finely grated, seasoned sweet potato and pickeled boiled pork). Sometimes our neighbor would replace the souse with warm Cou Cou (cornmeal stirred to a smooth texture with okra) and succulent flying fish stewed in onion and tomato sauce seasoned just perfect. She never used a measuring cup or spoon and neither did my mother. To this day I cook my bajan dishes without measuring because this way of cooking was passed down to me by my mother.Little did I know I was eating dishes that would be one day considered as one of the top 10 National Dishes in National Geographic. Today the dishes that so many of us grew up eating everyday in the Caribbean are National Dishes and consumed by the many visitors who come to our island shores.Islanders are linked by many things including their location, migrant culture, tropical weather, tourism and a reputation for prime, fun, vacation spots. However, although the islands and islanders have many things alike Caribbean food showcases just how diverse and rare each island, taken by itself, can be.
The Jamaicans have a famous technique they used in their cooking called 'jerk'. The method includes cooking spiced meat such as chicken and pork over heated coals. It was passed down from African males who hunted in their home countries spending extended periods of time away from home. The first slaves who came to the island perfected it. 'Jerk' involves a long, slow cooking process and is enjoyed by many nowadays by many.Indians from India who migrated to the Caribbean after slavery are now an integral part of Caribbean culture, introduced meats flavored with curry as well as curry powder or as they call it 'kari podi'. We now enjoy curried dishes of all kinds including Roti, curry goat, curried crab and dumplings. The Chinese migrants brought mustard seed with them and the sailors who came from Portugal introduced codfish. America gave us vegetables including potatoes, chili pepper, beans and much more.The many flavors in Caribbean food that imbue our senses are inspired by the French, British, Chinese, Portuguese, Indians from India and native Indians. Caribbean dishes are so flavorful and delicious anyone who tries them can experience the feeling of the Caribbean itself: beauty, sun, surf, fun, laughter, heat, pulsating beats of carnival and authentic culture.My African-American mother-in-law who is a foodie has personally experienced these feelings. She never visited the Caribbean but she enjoys everything including the food. My in-law a more of a fan the first time she spent christmas with Jamaican in-laws in Florida. She told me on Christmas morning she awoke to the smell of something deliciously overwhelming. Later she learned it was, as she described it, "goat stewed in herbs" cooked from 5 o'clock in the morning to "fall-off-the-bone" deliciousness. Later she she was given something that reminded her of scrambled eggs but found out it was the famous "Ackee and Saltfish". Mom loves the Jamaican Patties they gave her and took some back home. To this day she cannot stop talking about her immersion in Jamaican cooking that Christmas.Two National Dishes:Jamaica: Ackee and saltfish is made with salted fish and the inside fruit of the Ackee which when done is similar in appearance to scrambled eggs. The salt fish is boiled over and over again until the salt is removed. This dish is served as an entree meal mostly at breakfast.
Guyana: Pepper Pot is made with the extract of cassava with a variety of meats to choose from but beef is the favored meat to use. It can be placed on a bed of white rice or with split peas and black eye peas and rice. This is a spicy dish served as an entree.A wide variety of dishes can be chosen from island to island but they all have one thing in common: delicious, succulent flavor-fulness that can't be beat, and most recipes are accessible on the internet.--
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