by Bridget O’Donnell
As November temperatures finally start to cool down, we instinctually focus on comforting sources of heat and sustenance. This month highlights food inspired by the islands to help warm our bellies and our minds.
Those of us who aren’t native to island fare may allow American-style restaurants to frame Caribbean food as fried and served with rich sauces. According to Ainsley’s Caribbean Kitchen regional dishes are also healthy, multicultural, and differ in taste from island to island. Tropical flavors from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and their neighboring archipelagos can be described as a melting pot of identities heavily influenced by imported spices, herbs, and sauces. Over time, Indigenous people and colonists learned to combine Native American cooking techniques with East Indian, Chinese, European, Latin American, and African. As a result, cultural fusions evolved from island staples such as seasonal produce and fruits, local meats, and fresh caught fish. Of course, dietary restrictions, beliefs, and politics also influence Caribbean cuisine making flavorful vegetarian, Rastafarian Ital, and vegan fare readily available, too. (Take a look at these websites to learn more about Ital food – Rastafari: An Overview of Jamaican Ital Food and, Ital Dishes: How to Make Your Own Plant-Based Jamaican Ital Dishes at Home.)
Title of Cookbook: Original Flava: Caribbean Recipes from Home
Author of Cookbook: Craig and Shaun McAnuff.
What prompted you to check out this cookbook?
A patron said the library should purchase more Caribbean cookbooks, so I started looking into what was available. Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook introduced me to the concept of Ital food. Julius Jackson’s My Modern Caribbean Kitchen provided traditional fare like Panfried Plantains (pg. 115), but, as the title suggests, also included more modern recipes. We tried the award-winning chef and Olympic boxer’s Light and Fit Fish Soup (pg. 95), a restorative meal to refuel the body after regimented workouts. Easily adapted, I omitted tannia or taro because I forgot to look for either of them at the store. I also omitted the dumplings to save prep time and avoid consuming a boxer’s calorie count. The introduction in Ainsley’s Caribbean Kitchen outlined notable differences between island specialties and characteristic tastes (of food AND rum!). As for Original Flava…
What did you like about this cookbook?
Their motto is EAT. Mine, too (hahaha). Joking aside, the McAnuff’s strive to show people, especially younger people, how to make Caribbean recipes: easy, accessible, and tasty, right from home. I bookmarked more than a dozen recipes to try – sweet and savory, jerk, curry, and sometimes spicy!
What didn’t you like about this cookbook?
You may have to renew/borrow this more than once. If you don’t have time to read the cookbook from cover to cover, like myself, some of the authors’ cultural and historical anecdotes and perspectives found throughout the narrative may be lost.
Favorite recipes (that you tried from the cookbook/website):
Ackee and Saltfish (pg.29)
Plantain Four Ways (pg. 37-39)
Stout Stew Beef (pg. 179)
Did you alter the recipe or make any substitutions?
My iteration of Ackee and Saltfish used fresh cod instead of saltfish and omitted the ackee because I didn’t source a Caribbean grocery store. We enjoyed this with breakfast and the leftovers with dinner.
On two separate occasions I prepared plantains. The first time, I made them to accompany breakfast on our day off, the second time, to compliment a casual dinner. As suggested in the recipe, I cut them two ways but chose to use the same, albeit minimal, seasoning.
Instead of a Jamaican Stout, our stew beef simmered in Guinness. This was mainly out of convenience; Guinness was available where I bought the other ingredients.
Would you recommend this cookbook/recipe? Yes, thankfully, even my adaptations were palatable.
Check out the library’s collection. If you think there’s something missing Submit a Review or a Title Suggestion. Our fiscal year is almost closed but we’ll resume buying titles in 2024 before you know it!