Can Cook, Must Cook

The food adventures of Franka P, a Trinidadian journalist living in London, UK. I'll write about my forays into all types of food and cooking, particularly Caribbean food. I'll also review books and recipes by the leading food writers and talk about the issues making headlines in the gastronomic world.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A challenge to Eat Caribbean

It rained all day in London today and such rotten weather calls for comfort food and staying under the duvet with a good book.
I could talk about the heavenly seafood broth I cooked today but I'll stick to my plan and review what I've read.
Eat Caribbean by Virginia Burke was a good way to get some sunshine by osmosis. This is one of the best books on Caribbean cookery I've seen in a while. It's well written with loads of fantastic photos and recipes that work.
Actually, I'd be surprised if Eat Caribbean wasn't this good, because the author has a wealth of experience in the food industry.
Virginia Burke is the managing director of marketing for Walkerswood Caribbean Foods (known for their jerk seasoning) and director of the Bamboula Caribbean Restaurant in London.
One of this book's strong points is that it doesn't fetishise or trivialise Caribbean food. In fact, it demystifies the cuisine and makes it very accessible to the non-Caribbean reader.
This means anyone living in a big city with a significant Caribbean or African community can find most of the ingredients quite easily. It's not uncommon to find ground provisions and tropical fruit in major supermarkets these days.
Eat Caribbean has a decidedly Jamaican slant, which isn't surprising since Burke is Jamaican. To her credit, she makes it clear in the introduction that Jamaican food is what she knows best. So there's a chapter on Jerk food, which is probably par for the course as for most non-Caribbeans, jerk chicken is their only experience of Caribbean food.

Some of the better known classic Caribbean recipes included are Saltfish Accra, Pepperpot Soup, Pelau, Ackee and Saltfish and Curried Goat.
I think the most interesting recipes are those from Cuba and Guadeloupe and I'm looking forward to trying Cuban Oxtail with Rioja and Guadeloupean Curried Goat.
However, there are a few things I don't like about Eat Caribbean, one of them is the book's layout. You have to wade through 40 pages of introductory stuff before getting to the recipes. I'd have preferred to read about Caribbean lifestyle and markets at various points during the book instead of all at the beginning.
Also, Eat Caribbean doesn't really survey the region very well. There's one dish from the Bahamas, but none from countries like Barbados, Guyana or Dominica. Is it that Burke felt the food from those countries was a bit too exotic?
By extension, I would think the strong emphasis on Jamaican dishes could turn off a lot of Caribbean readers who don't see any of their dishes included.
Despite this, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Eat Caribbean because there are a lot of interesting recipes in there and none of them are particularly difficult. I also think Virginia Burke sets a new benchmark for writers of Caribbean cookbooks in the future and I feel this is Burke's real accomplishment.
Eat Caribbean: The Best of Caribbean Cookery by Virginia Burke (Pub: Simon and Schuster).

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  • At 17:12, Blogger lara stein pardo said…

    great blog you've started here. keep up the cookbook reviews and recipes.

  • At 17:13, Anonymous Ros said…

    Hi Franka,

    I've never tried cooking Caribbean food myself but I've been meaning to try for a while. Do you need to buy in lots of special ingredients (like spices that aren't used much in Europe/Asia)?

    By the way, I like the blog- nice colour scheme! It is nice to see other Londoners' food blogs - they are often so useful!

  • At 15:17, Blogger Jane Bennett said…

    These look delicious and perfect! Thanks for sharing it here


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