How to Stock a Jamaican Kitchen

George Stern (Serious Eats) tells us (you guessed it) how to stock a Jamaican kitchen. I enjoyed this delightfully-detailed article immensely. [Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]

If I had to summarize the culinary reality of Jamaica in a single sentence, or indeed any of the Caribbean islands, I’d say this: It’s a kaleidoscopic synthesis of colonial, enslaved, native, and diasporic culinary traditions as bold and eclectic as anything from Singapore or Sicily.

We have a staggering variety of starches; we have street food that demands deep inquiry into proper crumb-to-meat-to-sauce-to-spice ratios; and we have an entire under-the-radar vegan diet called “ital,” courtesy of the Rastafari Movement.

And yet, minus a few breakout stars, such as Christmas black cake and jerk chicken, Caribbean cuisine has remained largely sidelined, even as Mexican, Indian, Chinese, and other cuisines have shouldered aside French dominance to assert themselves upon the North American food imagination. Well, this Jamaican thinks it’s high time the overlooked cuisines of the Western hemisphere start doing some shouldering and asserting of our own. (In Patois: A fi we turn now!)

Whether you’re trying to reproduce that mad good curried goat that’s been haunting your memory like a fiery first kiss, or you have the nearly impossible task of pleasing Jamaican in-laws, or you’re expecting a visit from Usain Bolt in the immediate future, this piece is for you.

From coconut milk to thyme, from Scotch bonnets to scallions, you’ll learn what you need to reproduce the flavors that anchor a diaspora and be able to conjure “Yard” wherever the storms of nature or life may find you.

Jamaicans use a lot of cans. Between the outsize influence of the British—our most dogged colonizers, and still the tinniest people that ever did tin—and the storm-prone, bug-blessed reality of tropical living, canned goods have emerged as the understated, unglamorous backbone of Jamaican cuisine. Here are a few essentials. [. . .]


[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

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