Traditional Food and Drink of the Caribbean (G-H)
This is the third in a series of articles celebrating the unique culinary specialties of the Caribbean Islands.
The islands of the Caribbean have storied pasts and while there are similarities, each island nation is influenced by the distinctive cultures that are part of its history. Because of the diverse groups of people who settled there, each island of this region has a unique history and culture that influences the cuisine. Since chartering a yacht is an adventure, why not be an adventurous diner and sample some of the extraordinary local dishes that celebrate your charter destination’s uniqueness.
One hundred miles north of Venezuela, Grenada is made up of several islands including the large island of Grenada and the farthest southern Grenadine Islands, encompassing Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Southernmost of the Lesser Antilles Islands, Grenada is an independent nation with an interesting past, particularly during the later twentieth century.
The early settlers of Grenada, the more aggressive Caribs, wiped out the native Arawak tribes and held off an attempt by the British to colonize the island in the early 1600s. The French ended up gaining control in the mid 1600s and the French and British battled over the “Spice Island” until the late eighteenth century when the British finally gained control and brought in slaves to work the sugar plantations. In 1974 Grenada gained its independence, but less than a decade later political tensions resulted in a coup and also a US led invasion to overthrow coup leaders in 1983. A United States peacekeeping presence remained in Grenada until 1985 and this arduous time in the past is still significant to Grenadians. More recently, the economy was devastated by the loss of almost 80% of the nutmeg trees and 90% of the nation’s homes during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. In spite of their tumultuous past, the year-round growing season and historic and acclaimed spice production contributes to both the economy and cuisine, which is a mix of African, Arawak, Carib, Indian and British influences.
The aromas of mace and nutmeg permeate the air of Grenada, who after recovering from Ivan, produces 40% of the nutmeg in the world. This Spice Island with emerging culinary notoriety, also grows large quantities of cinnamon, cloves, saffron, and turmeric and is a major exporter of lime juice. The Grenadians are proud of their spicy prominence and try to incorporate as many native products as possible into a single dish.
This infusion of flavors is particularly evident in Oil Down, the national dish of Grenada. Served on weekends and special occasions, this rich stew is elusive on restaurant menus although a few do serve it, such as Patrick’s Local Homestyle Restaurant, Andy’s Soup House and Dodgy Dock (street food), all in St. George’s. Oil Down, named as a result of the oils from coconut and meat settling to the bottom of the cooking pot, is a combination of ground provisions, (including breadfruit), pigtail, salt beef or other meat in a spicy turmeric saffron sauce and dumplings. As locals will tell you, it is not Oil Down without the inclusion of dumplings.
Other notable locally sourced entrees include Lambie Souse (conch in a citrus garlic broth) and curried goat accompanied by side dishes like callaloo soup, made from the leafy green “Caribbean spinach,” and macaroni pie. For dessert, indulge in any one of the delicious varieties of sweet potato pudding, made with grated sweet potato, grated coconut, milk, nutmeg, ginger and other spices depending on the cook.
Instead of your morning coffee or tea, while in Grenada try some Cocoa Tea, a traditional hot beverage made with cocoa balls and boiling water. Notable fermented drinks include locally crafted beers from the oldest microbrewery in the eastern Caribbean and a unique version of
Rum Punch. The West Indies Beer Company, combines traditional malted barley, with local Irish Moss seaweed and water sourced from the Grenadian rainforest to brew notable beers like the Windward IPA and the Old Mongoose Porter.
For an interesting local cocktail sample a Grenadian rum punch. Most islands have a rum punch but the version enjoyed in Grenada is considered to be a superb combination of lime, pineapple and orange juices, with simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and abundant amounts of rum and fresh grated nutmeg. For an especially local variety, try one with River Antoine Estate rum, made from organic sugar cane.
The islands of Guadeloupe feature lush rainforests, picturesque beaches, tropical fruit and sugar plantations, and a rich cultural history. A part of France since 1635, the distinctive French-Creole culture defines Guadeloupe’s highly skilled artisans, including its chefs. Many of the top chefs are West Indies natives who studied culinary arts in France, leading to a delicious fusing of the two styles.
The acclaimed cuisine of Guadeloupe includes Creole-style seafood, French-Caribbean fusion, and Indian-inspired curries, embellished with fresh local produce and tropical fruits.
Some particularly unique Guadeloupean foods include Accras de Morue, cod fish fritters with a spicy sauce; bokit, a fried dough sandwich stuffed with meat and cheese and topped with a vinegar sauce; and Creole ouassou fricassee, large freshwater prawns cooked with oil, tomatoes, chili pepper, garlic, onion, chives, allspice leaves, and a bit of aged rum.
The national dish of Guadeloupe is Porc Colombo, a blend of allspice, cinnamon, thyme, and curry powder stewed with pork, green pepper, onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, diced tomatoes, and spicy peppers.
Some of the local sweets to savor are Tourment d’Amour, spiced coconut sorbet, or any one of the French inspired patisseries.
Tourment d’Amour is a legendary dessert in Guadeloupe that comes with a story of love and loss and is traditionally a thin pastry layered with a jam of local sugar and coconut, topped with airy cake. Spiced coconut sorbet is similar to gelato, made with coconut and condensed milk and seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon. For something less exotic, it is easy to locate your favorite French patisserie from one of the many excellent bakeries in Guadeloupe to enjoy in a beautiful tropical locale.
If you would like to drink like a local, sip a Ti’Punch made with one of the high quality local rums, cane sugar and lime juice or indulge in a Biere Corsaire which was formerly brewed in Guadeloupe but since 1995 has been made in Trinidad and Tobago. For local made craft beer, there is a brew pub on the banks of the River Lézard in Petit-Bourg, Les Bieres de la Lézard, where you can enjoy one of their eight specialty beers.
On the western side of Hispaniola, Haiti became the second nation in the Americas to gain independence from Europe in 1804 and the first free black republic, welcoming oppressed populations and freed slaves to its shores. Because of Haiti’s close ties to freed slaves, its culture and cuisine while diverse, are heavily shaped by West African traditions, as well as French and Caribbean influences.
Although Haiti is the most populated Caribbean Island, they are a nation of migrants, with vast numbers of citizens leaving Haiti for other, more economically stable areas where they work and then send money back to their families remaining on the island. Because of the migrational nature of Haiti, their cuisine has influenced and been influenced by many groups but there are several unique dishes that showcase Haitian culinary characteristics.
One of the most beloved dishes is the national dish of Haiti, Griots served with rice and beans. Griots are cubes of pork shoulder washed in a blend of citrus juices (because of the scarcity of clean water) and then marinated with the addition of scotch bonnet peppers, slow-roasted until tender and finally fried in oil until they are caramelized.
Another Haitian staple that melds West African and French styles is Pate, a flaky multilayer pastry filled with spiced ground beef or salted cod. A unique and extravagant Haitian dish, diri ak don don is a Creole inspired side dish made by soaking mushrooms grown in northern Haiti until they produce a dark liquid, then cooking rice, peas or limas, and seasoning in the mushroom broth.
Additionally, a very special holiday dish, soup joumou is served on New Year’s Day to commemorate freedom from slavery. This Caribbean pumpkin based soup represents the dish served by slaves to French settlers, which the slaves were prohibited from consuming. If you happen to visit Haiti during the holidays or for a celebration, toast the occasion with a Crémas, a creamy concoction made with coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, lime zest, lime juice, dark rum and nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and almond extract.
For an everyday cocktail, try a mixture using Clairin, a Haitian rustic rum made from locally sourced sugar cane harvested by hand and transported to the manufacturer by animals. For a Haitian beer try the only beer brewed in Haiti, the Prestige lager.
Ready to experience these culinary delights yourself? Find your perfect Crewed Yacht Charter online, or send us a message below to reach out to us.