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“When cultures collide the flavors are explosive”

“Caribbean Cuisine”. It is hard for me to define as I am a few generations removed from my immigrant ancestors that arrived at Elis Island between 1910 and 1925. I remember the tastes and smells of home cooking, in the kitchens of my grand parents, and great grandparents, our friends and neighbors.

In our aspiring-to-middle (and dreaming of being close to upper) class neighborhood in The Bronx, those cooks came from almost every country in or with a shoreline on the Caribbean Sea as well as India, China, Italy, Ireland… etc. A melting pot place where two, three or four generations of a family had chipped in to purchase “spacious” three family homes and live together. Great fun was had by the local kids, guessing if we could stop by someone’s abuela/nana/granny table for an after school snack. In those times when we were shooed away, we would pool our quarters for a slice and Pac Man at Nick and Gus’ Pizza. Fresh out of the oven by two Greek guys with posters of the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon on the wall – video games in back.

Surprisingly for many of these families, their groceries, “provisions” and gardens were remarkably similar. The tomato and potato, native to the Americas was a staple in every kitchen. The tomatoes a pride of each back yard garden. Garlic, onions, olive oil and many spices were universal as well, though used in different ways.

Caribbean cuisine is a fusion of African, Amerindian, European, East Indian, and Chinese cuisine. At least according to Wikipedia. Initially, influences from the native traditions of the Carib, Arawaks, Taino and Maya combined with the traditions of West African slaves and Dutch, Spanish, French and English settlers. Later Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern workers followed to fill the demand for workers after slavery was abolished in the region.

Some of the dishes I observed and enjoyed (or spurned as kids are inclined to do) have fallen out of fashion and then returned to a heyday in recent years. Though I doubt you’ll spend hours skimming a pot of simmering pigs feet as my great grandmother did; you may enjoy bone marrow at a cutting edge restaurant as much as she did but are too busy to prepare it at home.

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Our offerings are designed to add a modern twist on those traditions and allow you to explore the complex flavors of my cultural legacy in a quick and accessible way. Some of these items may not currently be part of your pantry but I hope they will become new staples for you.

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