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by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer
Food is a huge part of our culture here in Jamaica. One would probably believe that dishes like ackee and saltfish, which is our national dish is a typical everyday dishes in Jamaica. Unfortunately, that is not entirely true, as ackee is a seasonal fruit, only available between January to March and June to August in some areas. However, many other dishes are had regularly, some daily, some weekly and some only on special occasions.
Jamaican households tend to be quite routine with their weekly menu. Growing up most households had specific days for specific meals. For example, on Sundays, the largest meal of the week is prepared.
Some Sunday worshippers tend to skip breakfast entirely and prepare dinner before heading out to church, while others prepare half the meal and prepare the rest upon return. Sunday dinner consists of rice and peas, 2 different proteins, and a side of vegetable salad plus blended fruit or juice.
Mondays to Thursdays can be quite different for every household, but in most cases, each home has a set menu that they work with for those days.
For example, when I was growing up, after having all that meat on Sunday, my mom use to ensure that on Mondays we had steamed vegetables, usually, cabbage or steamed vegetables with saltfish is had with what we Jamaicans like to call “hard food” which are ground provisions (boiled dumplings, yam, dasheen or banana).
Tuesdays are usually brown stew chicken, Wednesdays were always either rice and peas again or stew peas and Thursdays would be curried chicken.
Fridays are usually a no-cooking day, dinner is typically bought and brought home. KFC is the crowd favourite but pizza, jerk chicken and other fast food or street food options are often had instead. For those who choose to stay in, corned beef sandwiches are usually a preferred option.
Saturdays are definite soup days in Jamaica whether it is pumpkin, red peas or cowskin.
For a long time, I thought this was only in my home but later found out that my friends and cousins also followed this menu, of course with a few deviations here and there. It is generational, as today many young adults have continued this trend within their own families.
For special occasions such as weddings, birthday dinners, family get-togethers, funerals and any other celebration, one thing you will definitely find on the menu is a curried goat. For funerals, it is also typical for Mannish water, or goat head soup to be served.
An entire goat is purchased a day or two before the funeral, it is then skinned. The men roast the sacs of the goat, as tradition claims that eating the sacs increases men’s sexual stamina.
For weddings, the menu varies, however, traditional Jamaican wedding cakes are the same cakes made during Christmas, the fruit cake.
For tiered cakes, tradition dictates that only 1 tier can be eaten on the wedding day, the remaining tiers are to be frozen for each wedding anniversary, until the cake is finished.
Jamaica has quite a few holidays for most there are not any typical foods to be had on those days, but Easter and Christmas are two exceptions.
During Easter, fish and bread along with bun and cheese are the most popular meals. Some Jamaicans believe in the tradition of lent, whereas from Ash Wednesday to Easter (40 days) they give up a habit they think they should quit. Most people will also give up eating meat. During Lent, many restrict their diet to having strictly fish and vegetables.
Christmas is a major holiday in Jamaica and it is showcased in the meals prepared during that time. To kick off the Christmas celebrations most Jamaicans purchase sorrel over a month before Christmas day, boil it with ginger, then add rum and leave it to “soak” until Christmas day.
By then, the flavours would become extra potent. Similarly, the ingredients for the traditional Christmas cake are also purchased, and the dried fruits are blended with rum and Red Label wine and left to marinate until around Christmas Eve when the cakes are ready to be baked. Christmas day is usually a very festive one.
The preparation of meals starts early as there is typically much to prepare. Most families prepare multiple proteins including Jamaican Christmas ham, curried goat, roasted or baked chicken, fried chicken, and stew beef along with a side of gungo rice and peas and mixed vegetable salad.
Of course, if you want to try these dishes, you can find some great Jamaican recipes here.
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What Is Typical Jamaican Food? | Written: November 20, 2022