I’m catching an hour or so of TVJ’s Smile Jamaica. It’s my pre-breakfast, morning-show habit that fills me in on local happenings and exposes some great talent. Neville, the host, asks three European guests, who are in the island for the first time, if they’ve tried Jamaican food yet. Of course, he mentions jerk. The entire studio gasps at the visitors’ response. They’re booked to fly out–like any minute–and haven’t stepped foot into a jerk centre. I mean, who doesn’t have jerk while in JA?
Well, guess what, foreign people? This may or may not come as a total shock to you, but most Jamaicans don’t eat jerk from Sunday to Sunday.
I know we keep asking if you’ve tried jerk and ackee and saltfish yet–like we nyam these daily and expect you to do the same, the second you pass through customs and immigration. That’s because we’re so proud of our food, it’s rich history and the amalgamation of Taino, African, European and Asian cultures that make it as flavourful as it is today.
To tell you di honest troot, 1/4 pound of jerk and a chunk of hard dough bread or two festival is not something we typically back out our wallets for. It’s for weekends, beach trips, Fridays after work. . .you know, likkle outdoor nyammings.
So, as a service to you, my non-Jamaican friends (because most Jamdowners know this already), I’ll reveal a few snacks you may find us nibbling on round di yaad when we feelin’ peckish.
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of our patties. Well, alas, these don’t quite reach patty’s celebrity status. I don’t think they’ve ever been in the spotlight of our cultural presentations or tourist board ads. They’re not likely to be featured in travel mags or the half-inch-thick glossy books neatly centred on your hotel-room dresser alongside brochures of fine dining options and nearby tourist attractions. But they are very much a part of Jamaicans’ lives and have been so for decades.
If you’re on a budget, these choices, which I’m about to clue you in on, won’t have your wallets or purses bawling “Tief!”. They may be had for lunch, snack or supper, or when you just don’t want any heavy food. The most expensive of these meals works out to about J$150. In US money, that’s less than US$1.40.
So, ladies and gentlemen, taking centre stage, here and now, are the lesser celebrated cousins in our food culture, all locally produced and loved by Jamaicans at home and abroad.
Catch yuh next time
Peace and love,