In accordance with Black History Month, the International Education Centre (IEC) collaborated with Caribbean Connections to present an event celebrating the cuisine and culture of the Caribbean.
Aptly titled “Taste of the Caribbean,” the event, which took place in the Student Centre Presentation Room on the 27th of February, featured vibrant music and an opportunity to indulge in some of the Caribbean’s most iconic dishes, making for a wonderful cultural experience.
Four specific dishes made their appearance at the event, all of which I myself tried.
First, I tried rice and peas. The rice proved to be slightly gummy in texture and mild in taste; a well-suited complement to the other dishes, which mostly featured bold flavours and complex textures in comparison. Interestingly, although the dish is referred to as rice and peas, what may at first glance look like peas, they are actually beans—beans are typically called peas in the Caribbean.
Jerk chicken was the main and only meat option available to try. Jerk refers to a manner of cooking which originated in Jamaica. For this method, the chicken is covered with a mixture of spices referred to as Jamaican jerk spice. A specific type of pepper called Scotch bonnet peppers are typically a key ingredient of the mixture. The chicken I tried certainly possessed a hot, spicy kick which I really enjoyed.
Up next was a vegetable dish called Callaloo, quite popular in the Caribbean, and is typically composed of some leafy green vegetable, which tends to vary from region to region. Commonly used ones include Taro and species of Amaranth. Quite many different types of seasonings are used as well. For this specific interpretation of Callaloo, the leaves used were soft and the overall taste was what I can only describe as spicy and fragrant.
Finally, as a side dish, a fried dough with a nice crunch and an ever so mildly sweet taste rounded out the meal. Called a Festival, this dish is a type of fried dumpling commonly paired with jerk meats.
The event was an enlightening cultural activity and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Alex Henry, a member and co-organizer for the event at the IEC, shares some insight behind the event. “The event is mainly meant to showcase Caribbean culture through food and games for everyone,” she said. Having been hosted for multiple years now, the simple delight of food and music is an excellent way to convey some of the integral aspects of Caribbean culture.
Kenya Sloane-Seale, a member of Caribbean Connections, also shares details on their contribution to the event, as well as what they do in general. “We want to provide an environment where students can enjoy Caribbean culture, promote a good vibe, and kind of give people a sense of home away from home.” Caribbean Connections tends to host a variety of events every other week or so, such as meet and greets. Collaboration with other clubs occurs quite often, such as with the African Student’s Association. Overall, the goal is to “provide a welcoming community to the Caribbean diaspora,” according to Sloane-Seale.
Although Black History Month is now over, the IEC and Caribbean Connections will continue to host a multitude of events to support and encourage the immense diversity present within UTM.