The National motto of Jamaica is “Out of many, one people” might well apply as a whole, with a slight modification. Let it instead read: out of many one cuisine. For despite the diversity of the Caribbean people and culture that have produced a multitude of cuisines, there is an undeniable common thread, tractable through history, land, sea and sun. The local cuisine will provide the backbone to both the classic and unexpected Caribbean experience.
Taste seven year old rum from Cuba as the sun sinks into the ocean or French style pastries for breakfast in Martinique or Jerk (meat marinated with various spices) in a small Jamaican town, and also hearing the music in Dominican meringue to the steely Trinidad Calypso.
It all comes together to create the Caribbean scenario, one that lingers in your mind and taste buds after you have left. The Arawaks were the first to settle in the Caribbean. First venturing to Guyana, and Venezuela, then they made their way to Trinidad, Bahamas, Jamaica, and Cuba.
The Caribs followed and waged war on the Arawaks and then Europeans came and enslaved them. This gave us Caribbean people a combination of foods and culture. The Arawaks and Caribs had a taste for such animals as turtles, iguanas, alligators, and frogs. They liked turtle and iguana eggs also. The Europeans lad a taste for guinea pigs, rabbits, agouti (a rat like creature) The Amerindians (Arawaks and Caribs) dried and preserved their food by cooking it on a barbacot (a wooden framework over a pit of coals) The Spanish adopted this technique and barbacoa today known as barbeque grill.
It is important to note that all the Caribbean Islands owe at least some of their culinary heritage to Africa because Europe imported African slaves to the Caribbean. Over the years, each island has developed its own cultural identity and today Jamaican point to ackee and salt fish and reggae for their cultural reference point while the Trini looks to roti and Carnival for theirs. Like also the Caribbean always make space fro starchy side-dishes. However, there is less emphasis on root vegetables and tubers. In their place will be a large dish of macaroni and cheese.
This is not, it must be stated, the same sort of macaroni and cheese that comes from a box with the foil lined packet of powdered cheese product. This is the real thing; baked in the oven and packed so tight it can be cut into slabs and served lasagna style. Among the islands, Jamaica deserves special attention. Indeed of all the Caribbean countries it is Jamaica that a truly national cuisine has developed. When you get to Jamaica, it only takes a trip away from the tourist drags to realize that Jamaicans love to eat.