Caribbean has more than just Jamaica, says food writer Vanessa Bolosier
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Food writer Vanessa Bolosier is frank, funny, and a champion of the food of Martinique and Guadeloupe, writes Ella Walker.
If ever you find yourself caught in the gnarled pincers of a crab, you will wish you had Bolosier by your side. “I know how to escape,” she explains. “You have to press their eyes and they’ll release you; growing up I had all the training, good home training.”
Bolosier grew up on French Caribbean islands Guadeloupe and Martinique, and it was her father who taught her crustacean husbandry; in the weeks before Easter they’d farm crates of live crabs in preparation for dishes of crab callaloo and crab matete (spicy rice with crabmeat).
“We’d feed them not only chillies, but spring onions, garlic, thyme, and the flesh is different. It’s slightly softer. It’s tasty. You do feel the difference. It’s the same way if you feed your animals organic, beautiful grass, or you feed them grain – it won’t taste the same,” says Bolosier.
Having been based in London for the last 16 years, her cookbook – Sunshine Kitchen – came from her experience of not finding the regional variety of Caribbean food in Britain that she was raised eating.
“There’s a myriad cookery books, where you can learn about food from the north or south of Italy, and that’s just one country,” says Bolosier, but when it comes to Caribbean food, “generally everything is lumped together”, she adds, and often the assumption is that it’s “food that actually originates from Jamaica”.
That homogenisation, she says, is partly down to migration. “The people that migrated to the UK were people of Jamaican origin, in majority,” she explains, whereas in France, for instance, migration from French Caribbean islands has been more common, so “the food I’m talking about is the food people know; no one knows what jerk chicken is in France. No one knows what ackee is. Some of the ingredients and spices, they’re the same, but the application of them is completely different.”
Sunshine Kitchen shares her version of Creole Caribbean food; one that draws on the way her parents and grandparents cooked.
Sunshine Kitchen: Delicious Creole Recipes from the Heart of the Caribbean by Vanessa Bolosier is published by Pavilion Books, priced £12.99. Photography by Clare Winfield. Available now.