CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
Music – “Island Jammers” from J’Ouvert Comin’ by Caribbean Sound. Released: 2000.
The Caribbean is a wonderful blend of cultures, foods, music and people. As if that wasn’t appealing enough, toss in a near-perfect climate and you’ll have trouble leaving there!
After the native inhabitants awoke one morning to see Christopher Columbus standing on their doorstep, things changed rapidly. Many succumbed to diseases brought by Spanish settlers or were pressed into service as slaves. In addition to the Spanish, English, French, Dutch and British settlers arrived over the years.
The Caribbean islands stretch 2,500 miles from the southern edge of Florida to the northern coast of Venezuela and consist of more than 7,000 islands. Among them are Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Aruba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Martinique, Barbados, St. Martin, St. Vincent, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Nevis, Curacao, Antigua, Montserrat and Grenada and there are many more.
Caribbean food reflects the diversity of its people and features “Creole” food, however, in the Caribbean, “Creole” means “mixed and born on the islands”. There are a tremendous variety of foods, including spicy mixtures of meats, fish and vegetables.Exotic (to us!) fruits range from soursops, custard apples, and tamarind to passion fruit and guavas. Among vegetables, chile peppers are also cultivated and used frequently, especially in “pepperpot”, a dish with mixed meats, hot pepper and the boiled juice of the cassava (cassareep).
Of course, sugar cane is a major crop, and thus, one of its derivatives, most pleasing to the palate, is rum. Many of the Caribbean islands produce rum, each with distinctive differences in taste. With so many types and strengths of rum to choose from, and so many tempting recipes, it’s hard to pick just one, that might reflect Caribbean culture. I was fortunate enough to cruise the Caribbean for two weeks in January, 2009 and it was awesome.
Several Caribbean cookbooks are in my collection, among them “The Complete Caribbean Cookbook”, edited by Beverley Le Blanc, published in 1996, “The Caribbean, Central & South American Cookbook” by Jenni Fleetwood and Marina Filipelli, published in 2006, and my favourite, “Just Add Rum!” by Angela Spenceley, published in 2004. Below is a recipe I tried, while in the Caribbean, and here is Angela’s recipe from “Just Add Rum!”:
151 Black Bean Soup
The “151” in the soup is not the number of black beans, but the strength of the rum!: 151 proof from Puerto Rico (Bacardi or Don Q are a couple you can use)
2 cups cooked black beans with liquid reserved
4 cloves garlic crushed
½ small habanero pepper, seeded and minced
½ cup white minced onion
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup 151 proof rum
¼ cup fresh pineapple, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a small stockpot, heat the oil and sauté the garlic and habanero pepper for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan by swishing around the 151 proof rum. (although not mentioned in the recipe, I’d stand back from the stove after the addition of the rum!) Add the onion, spices and pineapple and simmer for 2 more minutes.
Add the beans and their liquid. Continue cooking over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Serves 4 – 6 and reheats nicely.
“Just Add Rum” is a good philosophy, no matter where you are in the world!