[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] The full title of this article is “Jamie Oliver’s jerk rice was a recipe for disaster – here’s how to make a great Caribbean marinade.” Daniel Lavell (The Guardian) says, “The chef’s microwavable interpretation of Jamaican cuisine has been called out as cultural appropriation. But it’s not hard to make an authentically delicious jerk dish.”
Jamie Oliver has given the world his take on cuisine from Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece, France and now Jamaica, but he’s caused an outcry with his new “Punchy jerk rice” – a microwavable rice product that has all the patois, but none of the flavour.
Dawn Butler, the Labour MP for Brent Central, who has Jamaican parents, had strong words for Oliver on Twitter. “I’m just wondering do you know what Jamaican jerk actually is?”, Butler wrote. “It’s not just a word you put before stuff to sell products. Your jerk rice is not OK. This appropriation from Jamaica needs to stop.”
Jerk is seasoning usually used on chicken or pork. TV chef Rustie Lee, who was born in Jamaica, tried Oliver’s rice and told the Guardian she “didn’t like it” and that there’s “no such thing in the Caribbean as jerk rice.” Lee added: “Jerk means barbecue. So, you can’t barbecue rice. If you tried to barbecue rice on a barbecue it would fall through. It’s ridiculous.”
Jerk is typically a marinade made with scotch bonnet peppers, allspice berries and other ingredients. Oliver’s version mixes garlic, ginger and jalapenos “to create a jerk marinade with attitude”. Lee thinks Oliver’s jerk is more like paella: “Jamie’s recipe has got aubergine in it, he’s got ginger, he’s got red beans and jalapeno peppers – it’s closer to a paella than anything else.” Lee added, “I’ve tasted it. It’s not very nice. I don’t like it. The rice that is used in it is like a rice pudding rice.”
Lee is also concerned that Oliver’s rice is misrepresenting Caribbean culture: “I like Jamie, but children might see this and think it’s part of our culture. It isn’t. If he had called it Jamie’s pukka rice, or if he’d said it’s Caribbean-influenced, that would be fine, but to literally take the word jerk, when jerk means barbecue. I think he’s in a whole heap of trouble. Everyone in the Caribbean will be saying: ‘Jamie! Nooo!’”
If you want to make jerk marinade the right way then, according to Brian Danclair from Fish Wings and Tings in Brixton Village, London, you will need a bunch of spring onions, three scotch bonnet peppers, 100 grams of all spice or pimento, one large onion, one bunch of fresh thyme, 4-6 tablespoons vegetable oil, a teaspoon of smoked paprika and 60-80g of salt. Mix all the ingredients in a food processor until pureed, and marinate your chicken over night. The following day, light up the grill and cook.