“I said: Doctor! Is there nothing I can take to relieve this bellyache?” He said: “Put de lime in the coconut and mix it all together, put de lime in the coconut and drink it all up…”
Maybe singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson had just eaten at a Caribbean restaurant before he wrote the lyrics to the above song, because the food can get a tad bit spicy, but the stomach can deal with that later, just let me get my taste buds around that jerk chicken.
Since the forced arrival of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean in the sixteenth century, the basic ingredients of those original African dishes form the foundation of all Caribbean cooking. These foods are cassava, corn meal, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, and bananas. Conkie is a slightly sweet dish containing corn meal or sweet potato and is cooked in plantain or banana leaves. Bambula cake, or bammie, popular in the Caribbean Islands, is the original cassava bread of Africa. Jerk pork was introduced by the Cormantee slaves from West Africa. They were hunters who traveled over great distances and cooked their pork over hot coals to preserve it. A lot of the time all of the ingredients were simmered slowly in a giant pot over a fire and each house in the village would contribute. Sort of a communal cooking pot, so to speak.
If you want to spice it up a little this winter, put on your straw hat, sunglasses, tropical shirt, shorts, and sandals and head out to a couple of the best Caribbean restaurants in the St. Louis area:
Caribbean Sun. 6665 Olive Blvd. (314) 725-3335 Here you can step back into a St. Louis version of a Jamaican paradise. The walls are brightly colored yellow and red and the bar is set up to look like a beach hut butt up against the ocean. All of the entrees are served with rice and peas just like they do in the islands. You can tell that the jerk chicken here has been marinated for hours and smoked to perfection. Caribbean sun also carries the much-sought-after Blue Mountain coffee and Jamaican soda as well as ginger beer. Make sure you order one of the coladas with the little plastic umbrella. If you still have any room left for desert, top it all off with a slice of gizzada, a coconut Jamaican pie.
De Palm Tree 8631 Olive. (314) 432-5171 The two owners of this restaurant are both direct imports from Jamaica. Caribbean artwork and tropical plants are everywhere. True to its name, the dishes here are decorated with palm trees. With reggae music playing in the background and Bob Marley on the tube, order up the finest selection of traditional jerked chicken and pork dishes. Start off with a tropical salad made with grated coconut, pineapple, and tangerine served on a bed of romaine lettuce. If you’re feeling lucky, try the escovitch fish, a Jamaican-style pickled fish. A couple of the banana rum fritters for dessert and you’ll be ready to wiggle your toes in the imaginary sand.