Jamaican cooking is rather special when you consider that it took years to develop this style of cooking among all the other Caribbean islands.
As a matter of fact, some of the other Caribbean islands continue to “borrow” this style of cooking today.
Back in the 50’s and 60’s, cooking was done in the outside kitchen on a charcoal stove, or just plain outside in the open. Our style of cooking was then considered... poor people cooking. Even the well-to-do hired poor people to do their Jamaican cooking. Of course the poor people did what they knew how to do best...poor people cooking. The food was always delicious. The "hired hands" made sure it was so. Do you think anyone offered any praise to any of these "hired hands?"...No Way!
None of these "hired hands" cared about praise anyway. Their objective was to make the best tasting food with what they had. That meant you had to be creative or have someone train you how to cook…usually your Granny.
This sort of attitude was common all over Jamaica. If you were a woman who could not cook, that would be a sort of disgrace. A woman, sometimes, may loose her man to another woman who can cook. This happened many times.
Remember the old cliche, The way to a man's heart is through his belly? Well, that's true in Jamaica, too
In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Jamaican cooking got a boost, so to speak, with the introduction of theKerosene Oil Stove, KOS. KOS was fast.
There were no more outside cooking on the charcoal stove! No more one-pot-at-a time cooking! No more covering the pot with a zinc sheet when it rains! And so on…and so forth. And finally, a relief...KOS,
But some men started to complain that even though KOS was fast and efficient, it did not make the Jamaican food taste like the old charcoal stove used to. This spells trouble for many a housewives and cooks. Well, a compromise was sought.
For awhile meat and fish were cooked on the old charcoal stove, for the purposes of maintaing that old time charcoal-stove-flavor and everything else was cooked on KOS.
Well that didn’t last too long, as you might expect. Harmony in paradise would not come easily like that.
And would you cook on different stoves just to please one or two persons? Maybe...but that’s just too much labor for anyone. But as fate would have it...things got better.
In the late 70’s cooking gas became popular on the Island, and that’s all she wrote... BOOM... or BAM. Everyone and their dog were using Propane Gas to cook.
And for those who did not like it, they learned to like it very quickly, strangely enough.
By the end of the decade, that's the ‘70’s, most of the complainers were in their casket, or close to it. Hey, it’s true, as morbid as it sounds.
Gone were the big huff-huff and bangarang on Sundays about the charcoal-stove-cooking.And by default, propane gas became the king of all flame sources, and that's that.
Another thing happened back then, hand packaged spices became popular. The informal merchants in the open marketplace started combined peppers, thyme, and garlic in small plastic bags together for Jamaican cooking.
Some merchants tried other creative matches, like a dried coconut “married” with scallion and thyme. For whatever reason, the right combination of spices pre-packaged together clearly meant a whole lot a Jamaican cooking was going on.
The whole idea of pre-packaged Jamaican food caught on with some people…big people, such as Grace Kennedy Co. Ltd., and other food manufacturing companies.
Today, Jamaicans rely on some amount of pre-packaged Jamaican food when doing their cooking, but by and large, they use the natural foods that are grown on the Island.
Now, the secret in knowing how to cook Jamaican food is pretty simple. The simple part is, add spices to boiling water and then let it simmer. The trick, is when do you add these spices and how much, and for how long do you cook these spices. Another important ingredient is oil.
Even though oil is one of the base ingredients, we try not to over-use it. There are some Jamaican dishes which require more oil than necessary and then there are some that are just plain oil free.
For the most part, temperature is the key in getting the food to taste one way or another. You know what kind of taste you want, and your Jamaican food will come out tasting good each time if you pay particular attention to temperature.
So there you have it… Water, Spices, and Temperature. If you’ve never cooked Jamaican food and would like to learn, stick with us, Aunt Mae-Mae and Uncle Zack, we will teach you.
Alright, for example, take a look at a few dishes:
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Jamaican food would be really boring if we didn’t have some drinks to go with it, wouldn’t it? Well my good friends, you will learn how to make Jamaican drinks like a Jamaican in no time. We have many tasty drinks that will pleasure your taste bud, alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
And snacks, I could not forget those. You will get the low down on Jamaican snacks too .
Your friends will wonder in amazement when you show them how good you are in Jamaican cooking. There are a few simple rules that you must obey when we give you this knowledge about Jamaican cooking... The Pledge of Compliance