The Caribbean is best known for its tropical climate, turquoise waters, and powder white sand beaches with a few having pink and or black sand beaches. First, let me tell you a little history of the islands and my island, Antigua and Barbuda.
Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493, the island was settled by Venezuelans, most of whom traveled by canoe. The first known settlement was by the Amerindians, then the Arawaks, who were then displaced by the Caribs, an aggressive tribe. During his second voyage, Christopher Columbus sighted the island and named it after a church in Spain, Santa Maria La Antigua. Most Antiguans are African descendants of slaves brought to the island centuries ago to work on sugar plantations. Remnants of wind mills used for the production of sugar can still be found on the island. Some were restored while others were transformed into shops or stores.
Becoming acquainted with the history of the Caribbean, you first have to understand its culture. The Caribbean culture has historically been influenced by the Europeans -especially the British, Spanish, and French - as well as the African slave trade and the indigenous peoples. The rich culture and cuisine set against a backdrop of crystal clear waters and never ending sunshine is what gives the Caribbean its lasting influence on travelers. Tourism is by far the biggest money earner in the Caribbean because of its exotic tropical setting.
Each island has a national dish and my island in particular has two popular ones. Ducuna (DOO-KOO-NA) is a steamed dumpling made from grated sweet potato, coconut, flour, and spices. The other is Fungee (FOON-JI), a paste made of cornmeal, okra, and water, very similar to polenta.
Ducuna Creole Cod Fish and Calaloo
Caribbean cuisine is a fusion of African, European, East Indian, Arab, and Chinese. However, each island has created styles unique to that region. The ingredients most common in island dishes are rice, plantains, beans, cassava (a starchy root vegetable), cilantro, bell pepper, chick peas, tomatoes, sweet potato with a white flesh that is firmer than the more popular orange one, and coconut. Meats locally available are beef, goat, poultry, pork, and an abundance of fresh seafood. A traditional seasoning for the region is a green herb and oil based marinade, which imparts a flavor profile truly Caribbean. Ingredients included onion, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, celery, green onion, and herbs like cilantro, marjoram, tarragon, and thyme. This seasoning is used in a variety of dishes like curry, stews,and roasted meats.
So when traveling the Caribbean, immerse yourself in the culture of the islands, its cuisine, music, and historical sites. Remember, the beach is just the beginning.
- Chef Andie