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Caribbean Cooking – A Fusion Of The World’s Foods
The lush vegetation found in the Caribbean, bearing exotic fruits, vegetables and nuts, has influenced Caribbean cookery. To define any particular trend or influence is very difficult because each island has had different histories. As a result Caribbean cooking has evolved as a fusion of various influences. The English, French, Spanish, Dutch, East Indians, Chinese, native Amerindians and other nationalities brought their recipes, which were adopted and changed by West Indians.
The major ethnic group in the Caribbean is descended from Africans who were brought to the Caribbean as slaves. As a result the African influence on food in the Caribbean is quite visible in most, if not, all of the islands. The use of ground provisions, dasheen bush (taro) and ochroes to produce callaloo, peas and beans, the use of hot peppers and the cooking methods of stewing and grilling on open coal fires have been greatly influenced by Africans. They also developed dishes using pig's feet, cow's heel and ox tails (parts discarded by the plantation owners).
Spices from India, the far East, Europe combined with West Indian flavors, nutmeg, Chadon Beni (Cilantro), bay leaves and other preservatives used by the Amerindians, the original natives of these islands, have greatly influenced the cuisine of the Caribbean.
East Indian food in the Caribbean is essentially a blending of flavors and colours. The use of varied spices is essential to produce Caribbean Indian food. Tumeric (haldi), is the most universally used spice in Indian cookery. Cumin (geera) seeds and powder has been blended with other spices to create various blends of curry powder. Curry has become an important part of the daily diet of local people from this region. A few variations have evolved from the original concept of curry introduced by the immigrant workers from India.
European dishes have been fused in Caribbean food, which has been greatly influenced by the Spaniards, English, Portuguese and French. Some examples are pastelles and garlic pork, Christmas delicacies, fish broths and chowders, white bread and fruitcakes and pastry. The French and Spanish also introduced herbs such as thyme, oregano and chives.
Local ingredients are also incorporated into Caribbean cooking. Fish and shellfish dishes are quite common and are combined with fruit and vegetables in a wide range of salads, Hor’s D’ oeuvres and entrees to produce exciting, tantalizing dishes which are essentially Caribbean. Some examples are saltfish and shrimp accras, crab backs, coo coo balls with callaloo dip.
Coconut and rum are other popular ingredients, Coconut, in the form of coconut milk, is used extensively in sweet and savory dishes adding a rich creamy flavor to peas and rice dishes and stews. The grated husk is used in sweet breads and other desserts and to coat shrimp and other seafood when frying or grilling. Rum is used to tenderize meat, enhance the flavor of stews and in a number of tropical drinks, including our famous rum punch, a mixture of fruit juice and rum.
The combination of these influences, ingredients and experimentation has evolved into a cuisine now identified as Caribbean Fusion.
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Travel Part B