Intuition and feel cooking are the roots of Caribbean cuisine. The majority of the most popular foods in the Caribbean were not created by cookbooks or cooking shows, nor were they popularized by Instagram or other social media accounts.
Many of the most beloved Caribbean dishes are the result of adaptation. Jamaican jerk seasoning was used by the Taino Indians and African Maroons in Jamaica to preserve their dishes. Barbadian cou-cou is a national dish made from corn meal, okra, or ochroes. It was popularized in the colonial period because it was affordable and has a striking resemblance with Ghanaian Banku.
The origins of Caribbean intuitive cooking were found in early Amerindian settlements in West Africa. They were influenced by English, Spanish and Dutch colonial influences. The roots of the earliest Caribbean foodways were in struggle and resilience. Despite the advent of technology, Caribbean culinary traditions are still authentic, in the DNA of Caribbean people and their souls.
Intuitive cuisine is based on fresh ingredients, does not rely on pre-made meals, and doesn't require a large pantry. Here is where creativity, innovation, and ingenuity all come from.
Chef Digby Strideron from St. Croix, the US Virgin Islands, believes that cooking intuitively allows one's kitchen to express its creativity daily.
Strideron is inspired by regional ingredients and seasonal recipes. This allows him to be more creative and allows him to expand his knowledge of his food. Strideron has been a forager for the past ten years, following flavors and stories. He believes that it is more important to focus on the technique and the ideology behind recipes than making the same dish repeatedly.
Strideron says that being intuitive in the kitchen allows her to tap into the creative process of cooking and express herself. Intuitive cooking was a natural way to cook. Our ancestors relied on what was available and what they could hunt or preserve. The ingredients changed every day, but the food remained the same. Understanding why these changes are important is the best part.
Chef Digby Strideron Dave Miller
Food traditions are an important cultural inheritance. However, the Caribbean's culinary ingenuity has extended into the modern era, leveraging the Caribbeans spirit and resilience. This has created space for healers, top-end chefs, as well as Diasporic or foreign interpretations.
Sherri Hillman isn't your average chef. In fact, she calls herself a "cooking gypsy". With her down-to-earth perspective on cooking, she has enjoyed a long career traveling the globe delighting people and clients. However, she claims that her soul finally found home in Barbados in 1990 and Cayman Islands in 2007.
Hillman was a regular host of farm-to-table dinners during her time in the Cayman Islands. She became a sort of Tony Robbins for the anti-ultra processed food movement. Hillman evangelized to her guests about the importance of local, seasonal eating and making everything from scratch.
Hillman says that when I cook for someone I use my intuition, my connection with what is around me, and I intend to make the best, healthiest, and most delicious meals possible. People have lost touch with food as their connection to life. If we eat the right foods, our bodies can heal themselves. It is not something that doctors or patients share. It is not something that schools teach.
Chef Sherri Hillman Chef Sherri Hillman
Ben Tsedek, a Jamaican chef, knows a lot about healing through food.
Tsedek is an Rastafarian raw vegan chef and organic farmer. He commutes between his Boca Raton Florida farm and the hills of Mandeville Jamaica.
Tsedek says that you don't have to live to sustain your life. He cites the Yoruba view of life as a source of life force found in the food we eat. If I eat a pumpkin I don't have to kill it. My food does not carry any karmic debt.
Tsedek, who was the former owner of Firelight, a popular Kingston raw vegan restaurant that served vegan food, believes in the power and ability of the sun to cook his meals. He stresses that people will eat in harmony to their genes and be able to prevent or treat their ailments by cooking according to their needs.
Tsedek claims that his intuitive approach to cooking his prized soups helps with digestion, cleansing and regeneration. Tsedek's favorite ingredients can all be found in his natural environment. He loves to cook with sea moss and sea moss. The latter, he claims, helps to fortify and harmonize the elements of the pot.
Chef Ben Tsedek Chef Ben Tsedek
Intuitive cooking is just like intuitive cooking, which connects with life force and energy, but it also connects to ancestral and family traditions.
This concept is well-known to Stephanie Ramlogan. She is a Trinidadian living in New York and she tries to reconnect with her roots by creating her own dishes using Diasporic flavours, spices, and ingredients that appeal to her.
My mother taught me how to cook. She laughs and I don't know the difference. My mother is an amazing chef. I have never seen her follow a recipe. As a child, I asked her how she remembered the measurements. She replied that she made up the measurements as she went.
Ramlogan learned how to adapt what her mother did in her Trinidadian kitchen by living in the United States. She uses taste and smell to guide her and she is now working on a Diaspora-inspired cookbook.
She explains that she has been compiling recipes for Trinbagonian food using substitutions. Trini Cooking for People In Foreign is what I affectionately call it. For one recipe, I pictured my mother telling me, as a 21-year old, how to make Palau. This book is meant to be a place for people who love to cook to come together to laugh, share and learn. The book is not only about recipes but also stories about my experiences living in the Caribbean and how they have helped me adapt to my cravings for red bean stew and macaroni pie.
Stephanie Ramlogan Stephanie Ramlogan
The Caribbean has a rich history of intuitive cooking techniques.
Consider bush cooking as an example. Picture it no controls, no heat settings, no scales, no timers just fire. It doesn't matter if it is a pot filled with corn soup, with a mixture of coconut milk, pumpkin, scotch bonnet, and herbs, or a breadfruit that is left in the burning sand while the dead leaves crackle in embers overhead, cooking is done with your heart, not your head. It is ready to be eaten when the chef tells it.
Seasons, senses and creativity are the driving forces behind authentic Caribbean cuisine. Intuitive cooking is crucial to cultural survival and resilience. This is despite the threat of mass imports of highly processed foods.
The soul should be nurtured as well as the body.