A country’s culture can best be shared and experienced through its art, music, and most
importantly – its food. Through Cooking as a First Language, I was able to have participants delve and dabble in some of the culture from the twin island federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Born and raised in St. Kitts, the cuisine of my home country is steeped in a culture of fresh island flavor. In fact, many homes boast of fresh herbs and spices, local vegetables – and in some cases, even meat and poultry – grown mere footsteps from the kitchen in their backyards.
Marinated in old traditions and influenced by African, European and indigenous Indian heritage, not much has changed in the simple preparation of island cuisine...a style you would find throughout most of the Caribbean islands. Locally grown herbs and spices are used to season and flavour dishes, and the many offerings of tropical fruit trees also contribute to local beverages and delicacies. Throughout the Caribbean, “some” and “about” are words often used in recipe vernacular and can mean any amount from a teaspoon to several cupfuls. With an array of produce at one’s disposal, many children were not formally taught how to cook, it is just expected that one should know how. Thus, inspired by all senses, island cooking emerged from a culture of patience, sheer observation, and distinct taste. For our Caribbean cooking class, it was important to showcase this simple, but flavorful homemade style of cooking, which is generally based on available produce.
It was essential to engage our diners and truly show how easy, yet tasty simple food can be, and I could not have asked for a more excited group of friends to cook with. While wafts of island music filled the air, it was all hands-on-deck as everyone readily accepted their dish to execute and went to task. Amidst sounds of laughter, sizzle of salmon, and the chop-chop of seasonings, the kitchen was humming with activity and decadent aromas. When we were finished, we had laid out a spread for the ages: fried plantains, banana fritters, medley of carrots and christophene, rice and pigeon peas, roast pork, and baked salmon, accompanied with bread pudding for dessert, and local ginger beer for sipping.
The Kittitian and Nevisian experience is simple – a love of great food shared and enjoyed
amongst family and great friends. As we gathered around the table and witnessed what we had created together, we held hands and offered up a simple blessing; grateful and thankful for the joy and experience to share traditions and savor Caribbean food! So the next time we have a Caribbean cooking class, come limin’ with us and feel the vibes where food, people, and culture meet!