Jamaica is a beautiful island south of Cuba, between North and South America. The island has a great deal of “rich agricultural land, and although much of the mountainous are is not very fertile, here and there in the hills are pockets of land which can bear abundantly” (Buisseret, 1969, i). Jamaica’s uniformities and diversities concerning their food, as well as their unique religious functions, geography, economics, and technology contribute to their distinctive food culture. Most Jamaicans are able to produce their own food, such as sugar crops, bananas, and citrus fruits (Buisseret, 1969, 58). They use these products in trade, as well as for themselves. Also, they grow a great deal of domestic crops, such as “corn, vegetables, fruits, cassave, yam, cocoes, dasheeen, and sweet potatoes” (Bent, 1966, 44). Though rice is an important food to Jamaicans, they are forced to import it from Guyana, mainly (Bent, 1966, 45). Also, beef cattle, pigs, poultry, fish, and sheep are a significant part of the Jamaican food consumption. They raise them themselves, though sheep rearing is a great deal less successful. Most of the meat consumed in Jamaica is imported or grown by a few local livestock owners. Jamaicans buy their goods at markets in the largely populated cities (Bent, 1966, 75-78). Planters are well respected in Jamaican society, since they tend to be more well-off than most (Stewart, 1971, 126). Most food preparation involves pepper and the cook’s “special ingredients”; however, much of the cooking of meat is done in small drums on charcoals (Johnson, 1982, 25). Jamaicans are much like Americans concerning their food storage. They keep dried foods in pantries and keep milk, etc. in refrigerators (Johnson, 1982, 84). The act of eating itself is also “modernized just like the United States” (Johnson, 1982, 86). Also, they dispose of food in the generalized dumps, though mainly, food is not wasted in the Jamaican culture.
The only unique function of the Jamaican food culture is the drinking that occurs during the reggae concerts. The concerts occur almost everywhere in smaller, more rural areas, and the Jamaicans drink a great deal of rum. Rum is an alternative income for the estates when the sugar production is not good. No religious feasting seems to occur in Jamaica, oddly enough, since a great deal of feasting tends to occur on holidays. Rum consumption is the Jamaican’s main way to celebrate a festive occasion (Phillipo, 1975, 115).
Geography very obviously influences the Jamaican food ways: bananas, sugar cane, and citrus fruits are the main exports due to the warmer Jamaican climate (Buisseret, 1969, 55). Though the terrain is very rugged, farmers have worked past the scrubby area (Buisseret, 1969, 56). Also, Jamaican economics influence the food ways. Since Jamaica is still considered to be an underdeveloped country, most of the economy revolves around the import and export of food. Though imports are a great deal more expensive, Jamaica export money has increased a great deal in the recent past, making food cheaper and easier to obtain (Johnson, 1982, 96). Jamaican technology has also made it possible to store food more efficiently (Johnson, 1982, 94).
Jamaican food culture is an interesting collection of diverse and exotic foods. Their society places a great deal of importance on food due to their importing and exporting. Their food ways are much like America’s in their storage and preparation. Though they do not really have much religious association with their foods, alcoholic beverages are a major part of their culture as well. A Jamaican’s way of life is defined by the foods and the types of foods they eat.
Bent, R.M. (1966). A Complete Geography of Jamaica. London: Collins Clear-Type Press.
Buisseret, David. (1969). Historic Jamaica. Barbados: Caribbean Universities Press.
Johnson, Alexander W. (1982). Jamaicans. Philadelphia: University Press.
Phillipo, James M. (1975). Jamaica. New York, NY: University Press.
Stewart, John. (1971). An Account of Jamaica. New York, NY: Library Press.