The Caribbean: a region with over 7000 islands but only 28 inhabited territories. Jamaica is often used synonymously due to their culture having worldwide influences, but there is so much more to this mysterious place, writes Aisha Jade.
With a rich and unique history that involves colonialism and slavery, Caribbean culture is and has been multicultural for hundreds of years.
European, African, Indian and Chinese are amongst some of the ethnic groups and cultures that reside in the islands. And although there are crossovers between cultures no two islands are the same. Each one offers its own unique language, music, dance and cuisine that reflects its diversity.
The ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao pronounced cure-a-so are territories of the Netherlands.
The official languages are Dutch and Papiamento, the latter being a Creole language heavily influenced by Portuguese but also Spanish, Dutch and West African dialects. These three islands have a combined estimated population of nearly 300,000 and share a well-known local dish of Cabrito Stoba: a hearty goat stew.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic (DR) are two countries that share the Island of Hispanola.
Haitians speak French and were the ones to lead a successful rebellion against the colonial rule which resulted in the founding of the country.
The population is estimated at just over 11,000,000 and one of the national dishes is Griot, a sweet and savoury fried pork meal.
On the other hand, the DR are Spanish speaking with an estimated population of nearly 11,000,000. A national dish is sancocho: a soup containing different meats, vegetables, cassava and plaintain. But, the cuisine differs depending on what part of the island you are located.
For example, those close to the sea: diet will consist of mostly sea food. Furthermore, they have the highest population of Japanese citizens in the Caribbean, so in areas such as Constanza the food will have some Japanese influences.
Jamaica, like other Caribbean islands, is a fusion of different cultures.
This is heavily reflected in the food as many of Jamaica’s signatures dishes are combinations of food from different countries that have a connection to Jamaica in some way.
For example, ackee and saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish, when ackee is in season that is.
Saltfish is said to have come from European invaders who used to dry and salt the fish to preserve it. On the other hand, ackee comes from West Africa, a place where most of the slaves who were taken to Jamaica originated from. I remember my classmate from Ghana being confused as to why we, Jamaicans, ate fish with fruit, each to their own I suppose!
Some people would frown upon this meal as they would see it as a poor man’s dish due to it being very affordable, but I see this as a bonus.
My late Grandmother Mazzie passed down her recipe to my mother Dee, who cooked this for me growing up and still cooks it now.
I get to enjoy a taste of Jamaica from the comfort of my own home and you can too with this recipe.
GRANNY MAZZIE’S ACKEE AND SALTFISH
Serves 4 | Ingredients:
1 packet of saltfish
1 tin ackee
1 large onion
1 red pepper
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
2 large garlic cloves
2 large lemons
2 ripe plantains
2 sweet potatoes
4 – 6 oz plain flour
10 tbspn Olive oil
Rinse 1 pack of saltfish and place into a large bowl filled with cold water half to three quarters full. Slice the lemons and place them into the bowl of saltfish and water. Leave this to soak overnight.
The next morning, rinse off the saltfish. Use a fork to then flake it into small chunks. Get the 2 large plantains and cut off the ends then cut in half, leave the skin on.
Additionally, peel the sweet potatoes and cut each one into 4 pieces. Place plantain and potato into large pot of cold water and bring to boil.
Next, get the plain flour and gradually keep adding water until it turns into a doughy paste. Knead the dough and roll it into car wheel shapes to make about 8 dumplings. Add this to the boiled water with the sweet potato and plantain.
Chop the onion, garlic and red pepper and sauté for 4 mins. After this add the saltfish and cook for a further 5 mins. Drain and add the tinned ackee and cook for a further 10 mins. Drain all the plantain, sweet potato and dumplings, and voila, dinner is ready!