History of Jamaican Food

Jamaica – an island full of history, heritage, and people from all parts and corners of the world... and of course – food. 

With an island having so much influence from all over the world, it's no wonder that the food is just as original, unique and tasty – boasting of influences from the Spanish, British, East Indian, West African, Portuguese, Chinese, French and the Dutch. One cannot be but fascinated with the rich culinary choices of Jamaica.

The history of Jamaican food starts with the Spanish arriving in 1509 and driving out the original inhabitants (the Arawak Indians.) With the Spanish, came many slaves, which brought their cooking techniques, spices and recipes from Africa to the island. The Spanish Jews also arrived on the island, bringing in their unique dishes (one of the most famous being "Escoveitch Fish" – a vinegary concoction of sorts.) These nations began to mix their recipes in with the island's local fresh produce and seafood choices, creating new dishes.

In 1655, the Spanish lost Jamaica to the English, who brought in further additions to the cuisine choices and developed many new dishes on the island (the most famous, currently, is the Jamaican pattie.) The English also transformed much of the island into sugar plantations. When the slave trade was finally forbidden a century later many immigrants began to join the island as laborers from China and East India. The Indian influence brought many of the Indian spices into the mix – which is why Jamaica is very famous for spicy food to this day. Just about everything is made into curry – whether it be seafood, pork, rice or anything the island has to offer. Jamaican curry is a wonderful eclectic mix.

Jamaica is also famous for what is known as "jerk" – a sort of dried meat (known as beef jerky in other parts of the world) that finds its roots in the Cormantee tribes in Africa, and was imported when slaves came to Jamaica. Many of these slaves escaped their slavery and stayed in secluded parts of the Island – their descendants known as “Maroons” to this day. They are famous as herbalists, and for jerk. The Jamaican Rastafarians have also added their contribution into the mix, creating food known as “I-Tal Cuisine” which basically follows strict Rastafarian dietary guidelines and has no salt.

Whatever your choice of food, Jamaica will surprise you again and again with such wonderful unique and rich island tastes. Jamaica is also famous for coffee, since a lot of coffee is grown on the island, and their fresh produce is very popular amongst tourists. All of the island's combined history has created some of the most flavorful tastes and cuisines the Caribbean knows, resulting in a bountiful choice of food that you will desire for even long after you may have left the island. Their food truly represents the island's motto - “Out of Many, One People.”

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