Fusion is a sentiment that rings true in Caribbean culture and nowhere is it more evident than in the foods of the islands.
As Danita Bacchus of Barbados simply put it, Caribbean food feels, “like home.” Home being determined not just by geographic location, but also by the many cultural influences that have impacted Caribbean culture, extending to its food.
Caribbean food has been developed through several key influences including the native peoples of the islands, the Arawak and Carib Indians; their colonists, the British, French, Spanish, and in some cases, Dutch; Africans, through slavery, and Asians, through post-slavery indentured work.
These influences provide some of the staples found in dishes across the Caribbean islands such as spices, hot peppers, curries, peas and beans, and foods of the ground like yams, pumpkins, chayote, and cassavas. Though used in different ways, these and other elements including fruits that are common to the tropics, are typically found in Caribbean cuisine. Additionally, where they might differ in ingredients, many share similar cooking and preparation methods such as jerking, stewing, slow-cooking, and open-fire roasting.
The use of fruits to make natural drinks is also a popular tradition in the Caribbean islands. Fruits such as papayas, mangoes, sour sop, sapodilla, coconut, cherimoya, passion fruit, and guava are often juiced alone or blended together with fruits that pair well and enjoyed by islanders and visitors alike.
The use of herbs is another common practice in Caribbean culture, for medicinal, cooking, and drink-making purposes. In the cupboards of any given islander, one may find a variety of herbs and spices including: pimento, moringa, mint, sorrel, neem, guinea hen, fever grass, and sarsaparilla. Teas are often viewed as cure-all in Caribbean culture. Whether one is sick, depressed, injured, cold, or hot, tea is profusely offered and utilized.
Much like the use of tea, Caribbean food is centered on comfort, family, and love.
“When I think of Caribbean food, it makes me feel nostalgic,” said Angela Anderson. “I remember waking up on a Sunday morning as a child, with the aroma of Jamaican breakfast permeating the air.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Maya Byfield reminisces on, “mommy on Sundays.”
For, Merita Lewis of Antiguan affiliation, Caribbean food is “one big pepper pot [to which] every island brings their own specialty.
To the people of the Caribbean, food is special. The coupling of natives’ culinary ability and their hospitality, make for a sharing experience guaranteed to give ‘a likkle piece of home’ to anyone wishing to try it.
“When I think of Caribbean food, it makes me happy I married a Jamaican wife,” said Andre Minott. “I roll over and smile, then eat ackee and some green banana.”