So. Yesterday I had some bomb Jamaican food from my favorite Jamaican restaurant anywhere in the universe. It just so happens that the restaurant, The Hummingbird, is located right here in downtown Trenton. I got a medium jerk chicken platter with rice and peas, plantain, and a beef patty. To save you all the torturous envy sure to spring forth from publishing a picture of the food, I won’t. It was excellent though and I considered taking a picture of it.
The food was so good that I decided to do a bit of exploring online to see if I might be able to make some jerk chicken myself. Watching Chopped along with previous comments by friends (“so THAT’S how you get girls, huh?”) has got me feeling myself in the kitchen. Thus, like any young person looking for “How To” do something online, I looked to YouTube for direction. Here is the first video I came across:
I watched the video for about a minute but something seemed wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first but then I looked at the hand of the person putting the allspice into the food processor, paused the video, and it hit me: the person cooking this is White. This realization was quickly followed up by three others:
(1) There is an American, most likely White voice narrating how to cook this.
(2) The music playing in the background is Paul Simon-like-soft rock.
(3) Why the heck am I trusting a White American chef with a Black Jamaican recipe?
Just the previous day I had a conversation with my younger brother about the derivatives of Southern food or “soul food.” For the four years that I lived in the south, absolutely every good restaurant that I went to had Black cooks even when the owner, cashier, servers, and all the patrons (except me) were White. Even The Varsity in Belzoni, Mississippi where my much older, Black cab driver (in my pre-license days) refused to eat from due to his knowledge of the history of the restaurant as a Whites-only establishment. When I lived in the 70% Black town of Belzoni from 2007-2009 I went to The Varsity several times and I never saw another Black person go inside the restaurant. Black people always ordered at the window to the outside of the restaurant, got their food, and left.
I posited that White people in the south didn’t know WHAT they were doing with pig, greens, chicken, sweet potatoes, etc. until they brought over some Africans or Afro-Caribbeans to their plantations and they swagged out their whole cuisine. It got me thinking of questions like, “what was the reaction of the first White person who ate sweet potato pie their slave baked?” or “what was it like when a slave first took pork belly lining, slathered it with salt, fried it, and then put it in front of his/her master saying, ‘this is bacon.’?” Oh, Black people. Adding swag to any and everything for millenia now.
Anyway, I closed out that video that I was watching in search of something…ummm…more authentic. Fortunately for me, the search was simple as the video below was the second search result.
There are several major differences between this video and the aforementioned one. Firstly, I immediately hear reggae playing and not soft rock. Secondly, the cook, Elvis, is purchasing his food from a real market, not a supermarket (maybe this is the case as well for the first video, but Elvis shows us food as he purchases it just as he would in Jamaica, thus augmenting his authenticity). Thirdly, HE’S A BLACK JAMAICAN. Thick accent and all. My faith in him was solidified around 3:33 in Elvis’ video when he took a whiff of his marinade, briefly forgot cameras were in front of him (well, maybe not), and started singing and dancing about jerk chicken. This is a scene that I have seen in my household many times when myself or a sibling walks into the kitchen to see what one of us or our mom is cooking, and at the sight/smell/description of it we break into a brief dance or song without even realizing that we’re doing it. It happens. Frequently.
Thus, know your source in situations like this where you’re trusting someone with your lunch. Authenticity is everything.blog comments powered by Disqus