The islands of the Caribbean may be close together and share a certain amount of similarities, but for the most part they are each quite different from one another.
The islands were settled by varying nations and took on many of the customs of their mother countries. The European influences are mostly English, Spanish, Dutch, and French. Islands such as St Lucia and Antigua had the influence from the English. Dominica had French; Trinidad was influenced by the East Indian and British and Jamaica by the British and the Spanish. Obviously, Martinique and St. Martin had Frenchinfluences and St. Marteen was impacted by the Dutch. This was a true melting pot that developed over the years. Of course, let us not forget the natives who were already living on these islands that melded with these newcomers. Thus a whole new world of foods and customs developed.
The African people, who were brought to these islands, came mostly as slaves to work the fields. They too contributed to the customs and foods that they taught the islanders how to prepare. During this time, the Africans introduced okra, pigeon peas, plantains, callaloo, breadfruit and ackee.
The Arawaks,who were a native tribe, are given credit for introducing barbecue to the settlers. They made grills with native sticks called, “barbacoa” . They also introduced to the new settlers corn, yams, peanuts, lima beans and pineapple that all grew wild on the islands.
This was not all one sided. When Columbus arrived in 1493, he too introduced new foods to the natives. He introduced sugarcane which would have a great impact on tropical drinks yet to come. Rum! They discovered that rum could be made from fermented sugarcane juice. To this day, many people should thank Columbusfor this discovery. I know one person in particular who happens to be a Rum or Rhum connoisseur, my husband, Herman!
The Spaniards also introduced new foods to the islanders; coconuts, cilantro, eggplant, onions, and garlic. The Europeans colonists from Portugal, the Dutch, Danes, British, French, and Swedes contributed among things, oranges, limes, mangos, rice and coffee.
Even the slave trade from West Africa brought okra, pigeon peas, and plantains. Other settlers brought native foods from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, and conch from the Cayman Islands and Callaloo from Tobago and I could go on and on. The islands are truly a “Garden of Eden.”