Tropical Sun

The call of our homeland

Posted: 29 June 2010

Jerk chicken

Food as a memory to your childhood and culture.

Ethnic food in the UK is an exciting adventure for some and an emotional journey for some others. For those who are trying African or Caribbean food for the first time, it is a burst of unfamiliar flavours that holds the promise of new discoveries. For those who grew up on the staples of Afro-Caribbean cuisine such as black bean, ackee and breadfruit, this cuisine is not exotic but familiar and comforting.

Food has a powerful hold on our memories. As much as we remember people and places, we remember the time we ate that spectacular Cajun spice chicken and that delicious guava mousse pudding. And this memory of food is particularly poignant for those of us who have moved from one country to another. Words like home and diaspora have subtle differences for many of the Windrush generation. In a time of globalization and much cross-border movement, there are many families spread across continents and countries and people are comfortable with more than one home.

As the world becomes a giant melting pot (in some ways), there remain some deep-rooted memories that are unique to each of our childhood’s that are tied to a time and place: the sounds of children playing on the streets, the smell of the ocean as a storm approaches and the ultimate memory is the taste of that favourite dish mama served on Sundays.

Once we’ve moved from our homelands, recreating that traditional dish (ackee saltfish, Jollof rice, Suya, curry goat, coconut rundown) becomes a way of connecting to our roots. Food is not just about eating for sustenance but a way of re-establishing our identities (sustenance for the heart). So, in this context it is not just the food-lover or gourmand who craves the perfect Callaloo soup, it is also the couple who is longing for a flash of the “back in the days” feeling. As they rush to settle into their new home there is a worry that one may forget the old, and what better way to hold on to that memory than with food?

Researchers have found that in many immigrant communities around the world, no matter how thoroughly assimilated, weddings or other ceremonial occasions always involve the cuisine of the home country. This is seen as an unquestionable choice because how can one observe big life landmarks without the foods that have been associated with it for generations.

As individuals, families and communities, we use food as a way of remembering and re-experiencing home. The rise of grocers specializing in ethnic foods, the ones who make the effort to procure authentic ingredients from the home country, helps us cope with connecting our new world with the old world. Tropical Sun understands this pull of the homeland. We understand that when trips back home are not really possible, a taste of Breadfruit or Hot Pepper sauce, the aroma of Jerk or cooking in a Dutch pot, can keep us going in ways that are impossible to explain. Our home is here with you, but our heart belongs in the Tropical paradise that is our homeland.

You can get together with old friends from the Tropics and enjoy a great evening of home food and remember the land you came from. You can also get together with friends from the UK and introduce them to the foods of your homeland – it is a great way to show them a little more of your roots and your background. Enjoying good food together will strengthen relationships, whether they are old or new!