We got you tipsy on Thirsty Thursday, now let’s get some food in your belly. On Foodie Friday we’ll serve up a big portion of local fare from around the globe as our special way of tiding you over until you can get out and take a bite out of our delicious planet.
The Caribbean islands float in a figurative melting pot, brought to boil by years of colonization that stirred together cultures from all over the globe. They are also deeply connected to a literal pot of varied ingredients called Callaloo, a basic stew with a diverse spin depending on which island you happen to land on.
At its most basic, callaloo is a thick soup made from leafy green vegetables. In fact, there can be some confusion when talking about callaloo, as the name can be attributed to the several species of leafy greens used in the soup rather than the dish itself — in Jamaica it can even refer to a drink.
But just as each island in the Caribbean has a different personality, each country has their own interpretation of callaloo. For example, the greens used in the concoction vary based on their availability and flavor profile, from Taro in Trinidad to Xanthosoma in Puerto Rico. And once it has its base, the only limit to callaloo is the imagination. Frequently added veggies include okra and chili peppers, and some regional variations contain meats like crab, conch, and fish. The result? Myriad dishes all called callaloo that all taste distinctly like the island on which they were cooked.
Collard greens, the distant American cousin of callaloo, help shed some light on the origins of the fare: both dishes were the direct result of the slave trade when Africans, taken to the “New World” against their will, brought along the plants of their homeland and mixed them with whatever new ingredients were available.
These ties to oppression via colonization would put a bad taste in anyone’s mouth, but more than anything modern callaloo is a celebration of the Caribbean spirit and diverse culture of the islands. To eat callaloo is to experience all of the global influences that have shaped the region over several centuries, and thus one of the best ways to get a true taste of the Caribbean.
And if you don’t believe me, maybe Jimmy Buffet can convince you:
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Photo courtesy of missmeng via Flickr (CC BY 3.0)