History of Caribbean Food
Over human history, the migration of people around the world have resulted in interactions between different cultures that have resulted in exchanges of ideas.
This has led to a blending of different and unique cultures and these cultures make strong and lasting contributions to each other. This process continues even today. The result is changes to fashion, music and arts, idiologies and religions. The most recognizable contribution however, are how new cultural influences affect the way we eat, both the types of food we consume and the ways we prepare foods we’re already familiar with.
Over the last five hundred years or so African slaves brought foods like okra, callaloo and ackee (a fruit that looks like a peach with a pulp that has the texture and color of scrambled eggs) with them where ever they were taken to and the Europeans brought wheat, beef, onions, garlic amongst others to the New World. Asians brought their own unique vegetables and, more importantly, they brought rice and spices. This wasn’t just some wayroad as far as foods moving to new cultures as some of the Western foods also made the transfer in the other direction to the ‘Old World’. Foods never seen in Europe, Asia, or Africa before like beans, corn, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, and, especially, the chili pepper came out of the Americas and spread throughout the Old World where they are now part of everyone’s everyday diet.
This blending of cuisines between the Old and New World has changed the way the people make food forever. Indeed one of the most noteable places that this mixing of cultures more evedent than in the West Indies–what we today call the Caribbean Islands.
The enforced arrival of West Africans to the Caribbean in the sixteenth century, brought with them the main ingredients of the original African dishes which now form a basic part of those of the Caribbean to the present day. Foods like cassava, corn meal, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains and bananas are all typically used in West Indian meals.
In fact some of the dishes now made can be traced back to their original African dish. The Foo-foo, where the vegetable was cooked, crushed and moulded like a pudding, has its similarities in the West Indian Cou-cou or Fungi or turn cornmeal which is a savoury cornmeal dish blended with okras.
Conkies, or Duckanoo are a slightly sweet dish with corn meal or sweet potato and cooked in plantain or banana leaves. (Can substitute foil)
Another popular Caribbean dish is the Bambula cake, or bammie which originates from the African cassava bread.
The popularity of ackee in Jamaica as well as the mango, were originally imported from West Africa, and in fact, are still grown there. Curiously Ackee hasn’t become as popular in West Africa as it is in Jamaica.
Cormantee slaves from West Africa introduced Jerk pork to the Caribbean as from their homeland, they were hunters, and when on their long journeys over the mountains, they cooked jerk pork, with a highly seasoned whole pig, roasted over hot coals.
Pepper-pot stew was introduced by the Carib-Indians slowly simmering a giant pot over a fire, and added in a variety of different ingredients which changed every time depending on what they could get their hands on.
For a long time Caribbean recipes were not written down, But just passed from generation to generation by watching other people or relatives cooking it and by adjusting it with herbs an spices to suit their own tastes.