5 Foods in Every Jamaican’s Luggage this Easter

While President Obama crosses national borders into Jamaica today, there are five things that will be crossing the border out of Jamaica in the luggage of many Jamaican’s upon their return from the Easter holiday.

1) Bun & (Tin) Cheese

Sweet and self-explanatory. There is no Easter with out bun, and no bun is complete with out the cheese. But not just any cheese… Ever heard of cheese in a tin? Well to any Jamaican, cheese is not real cheese if it wasn’t (through magic, skills passed down for generations and sheer determination) hacked out of a tin bearing the Tastee brand.

And boy does this cheese last! The shelf life of an unopened tin cheese is astounding and one of the reason why its a top choice in the luggage of many Jamaicans leaving Jamaica (not to mention it is way too expensive abroad)…it will give you a taste of the island for months (*cough* years) to come.

2) Jerk something and/or fried fish

Escoveitched Fish

Escoveitched Fish

Given it’s Easter, fish is escoveitched served in abundance and brought back in overabundance. This will be accompanied by Jerk anything…chicken, pork, even shrimp you name it.

Time for confessions and some unpaid advertising, but Island Grill in the Kingston airport has been the source of my jerk chicken supply. It all began when one day I spotted a very posh woman with an empty carry-on bag approaching the counter of Island grill. She placed a very long order, which consequently took very long to be given to her. Unfortunately for her she only received part of the order when the final call for her flight was made. She stuffed the meal into the empty carry on bag and ran to the gate. What was so good about this chicken that made this woman almost miss her flight? I had to find out…that was the moment I then became much like that woman, no matter how much I bought it was just never enough when I got home! The story had a happy ending for the woman though, turns out her flight was a bit delayed and she made her way out of the gate and back to the counter to collect the rest of her order, to the applause of many of us who watched the event unravel. Then once again she whisked off in her stilettos trailing behind her the scent of fine french perfume, jerk chicken and freshly fried fish.

3) Patty/Pattie 

Freshly Baked Patties

Freshly Baked Patties

There are those belonging to the tribe of Juici Patties and those to the other group well, Tastee (not to be confused with the Tastee cheese brand). You can already sense where my allegiance lies. I’m 100% #TeamJuici. While Juici vs Tastee is a hotly contested debate especially between Kingstonians and those in the suburbs (ok the country), the things both Juici and Tastee lovers can agree on is that patty must be brought back by the dozen, must NEVER be microwaved but slowly rebaked, must be had ONLY with Tastee cheese (if had with cheese at all) and no crumb should be wasted. Oh, I forgot there’s a third tribe, Team Mothers…they are out there somewhere.

4) ‘Boiled’ Ackee

Ackee and Lobster for breakfast (with fried dumpling and green bananas)

Ackee and Lobster for breakfast (with fried dumpling and green bananas)

Given raw fruits (yes this is a fruit though not one to be eaten raw) are not allowed in many countries, it is critical that ackee is boiled as this makes it eligible to be transported across borders since cooked foods are typically okay. Ackee may be deemed of the  10 most dangerous foods to eat, but as the the national dish of the island (along with salted codfish aka saltfish), you can say Jamaican’s, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, live life on the edge. Of course we’ve mastered the art of safely preparing it– don’t pick it too young, clean it well, boil it in steaming hot water– I’m yet to see anyone suffer from ackee complications. While I despise saltfish, ackee is one of my favorite dishes. So when I recently discovered Ackee and lobster, well…let the photo speak for itself. THIS is a meal fit for champions and officially my favorite Jamaican dish of all times. I move to make Ackee and Lobster the new national dish of Jamaica, who second’s that motion?

5) Liquid libations 

There are three types of people who bring back alcohol from Jamaica (whether white rum, red label wine, rum cream or the like). 1) Those who will drink it, 2) those who will cook with it and begin preparations for the christmas cake…which requires that ground fruits be soaked in wine/rum for several months or its authenticity brought into question 3) and those who will do both and just about anything else with it…cure a fever maybe?

Jamaican’s are not unqiue in the movement of food across borders. My Nigerian friend just returned with loads of Suya (spiced Nigerian beef jerky) and many other countries have their delicacies that are hotly requested by those in the disapora.

Which foods are you ‘inspyah’d’ to haul back post Easter?


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