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Out of Many, One People
Out of Many, One People
Oct 21, 2006
“OUT OF MANY, ONE PEOPLE”
THE MOTTO OF JAMAICA MEANING UNITY AMONG CULTURES AND
Though this Jamaican motto reflects itself in the cuisine
of the Caribbean, I do believe that food knowledge and
acceptance among the different island nations has a way to
Yes, we have integrated the foods of the many different
cultures that have graced our shores into our own unique
style considered “Grenadian” or “Trinidadian” or
“Jamaican” cuisine, but how much do these cuisines really
“cross-over” with each other?
How unified are we as Caribbean nationals as it pertains to
How many Jamaicans really know what “Bhaji” or “Chandon
How many Guyanese know what “Run Down” or “Coo Coo” is?
I got very annoyed at myself once when an American came
into the restaurant and belted out a laundry list of dishes
she had the pleasure of consuming on a recent island
getaway. I could only decipher five of the ten, and worse,
could claim only to have had three of the five. Of course
like a true Jamaican, I just lied and said I had them all.
Then I retreated to the kitchen and kicked myself in the
ass for being so “Caribbean Dum!”
Yes, some fruits, veggies and certain dishes are the same
and called a different name, but preparation methods tend
to differ significantly. There are also a few fruits and
veggies that are grown in some islands, but not consumed by
the natives. I won’t get into the story about the Jamaican
who visited another island and chose his particular hotel
because of the fully loaded ackee tree in the backyard that
nobody seemed to bother about.
A very important contributor to Caribbean cuisine, Guyanese
and Trinidadian in particular, who isn’t given their due,
is the East Indians.
Many of the popular dishes that grace the tables on these
islands are full of flavor, depth and spice, yet conform to
the diet restrictions of vegetarians without even
trying, or touting itself as a “vegetarian” meal. They also
contain many spices that scientists are now pushing as the
“spices of life” that are full of antioxidants and other healthful benefits.
This is because most East Indians that came to these
islands followed a strict vegetarian diet, and brought
their indigenous spices with them.
They learned to modify their cooking to incorporate
the vast array of fruits and vegetables available in the
islands, and used the spices they brought to make the dish
taste like home.
I believe that if the Trinidadian and Guyanese restaurants
here in the United States made the public more aware of the
fact that much of their menu is actually “vegetarian
friendly”, they would see far more of the other Caribbean
nationals, Rastafarians, and vegetarians in particular,
enthusiastically “tearing up” some Tomato Choka, some
Bhaji, some Dhal and Roti, etc.
Although authentic Indian restaurants have become very
popular for this very reason, I don’t believe their flavor
profile is anything to match a Caribbean cook that “set dem
mind” to the pot, and “put dem foot inna it.” …and a
“Scotch Bonnet wid no behavior” doesn’t hurt either.
This week-end at Ripe, we will be featuring one of those
dishes quite popular in Trinidad and Guyana,
This is actually the name for the green leaf of the Dasheen
plant, that is used to prepare the dish.
It has another meaning in authentic
Indian cooking, but that’s another story.
The leaf is similar to Callaloo or Spinach and is stewed
with okra, a hint of coconut milk, and other island spices.
The preparation can be left that simple, or it can be
fortified with seafood of any kind.
We chose salt fish and shrimp, and its being served with
dhal(yellow split pea puree) and white rice. (you can
substitute roti for the rice)
We have actually substituted spinach for the bhaji leaf in
our preparation, but it still comes quite close to the
Dreadlocks have no fear; we can cook it without the
“scavenger” dem! (no shrimp)
THE SPINACH USED TO PREPARE THIS DISH DOES NOT FALL UNDER
THE “SPINACH RECALL” THAT WAS ISSUED BACK IN SEPTEMBER.