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The Caribbean Culinary Museum Brings 'The Culture Of Love' From The Islands To South Florida

Island Syndicate
Chef Irie is a host on the Caribbean cooking series "Taste the Islands."

Are you a fan of Jamaican patties, Trinidad Doubles or Haitian pate kode? 

You can now take a trip to the islands of Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, Trinidad, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, without leaving South Florida through the traveling exhibition “Caribbean Culinary Museum.” It’s curated by the South Florida creative agency Island Syndicate and it takes attendees through the culinary history of the Caribbean — spices and all. 

The exhibition tells the culinary history of the Caribbean and explores the origins of the foods typical to the region. Some of the artifacts at the exhibition include old vessels and utensils that are used to store, prep, cook and serve traditional food delicacies. It shows where the food comes from, where and how it is consumed. 

Hugh A. Sinclair, also known as Chef Irie on the Caribbean cooking series “Taste the Islands,” and Calibe Thompson, creative director at Island Syndicate and the lead curator of the exhibit, joined Sundial to discuss the qualities behind rice and Trinidad Doubles. The exhibition is on display at Bailey Contemporary Arts in Pompano Beach until Nov. 9.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

WLRN: Let's pick rice. It's a staple. Tell me about how in your travels you see different island nations approach rice?

Credit Taste The Islands / Courtesy
The chicken pelau dish is made of rice with beans, chicken, sugar and spices.

IRIE: Rice is eaten almost every day in pretty much all the Caribbean islands. One dish to mention is 'rice and peas' and 'peas and rice', because everybody sort of does it differently. If you're Bahamian it is peas and rice. If you're Jamaican it is rice and peas. But it's all made differently. The process is sometimes very different from the way even Haitians make recipes, too. I was taught by a friend of mine when I was in culinary school that there's a part where you cook the peas, take the peas out, fry them back in. [In contrast,] Jamaicans soak the peas overnight in coconut milk. And then you're cooking peas and have coconut and scotch butter plus the other seasonings. Others add tomato products to the rice, but the flavor is very distinctive for every country.

I think what we bring to these rice dishes and any other dishes is the culture of love and the ways you spice things. Things can be spicy and things can be spiced. And people need to understand the difference. Spicy with the heat and spiced is the love that comes from the spice.

Calibe, how do you describe [this exhibition] for anybody who hasn't seen it?

THOMPSON: There's information and there are artifacts. The information is: where did the food and the flavors come from? The Caribbean is the melting pot of the world. In terms of genealogy, in terms of faith and genuinely mixed backgrounds. You will find people in the Caribbean who are Chinese and they're Jamaican or they're Middle Eastern and they're Jamaican or are Trinidadian. We tell that story from the information side, like where the sweet things came from ... the yams and sweet potatoes, things like plantains, stews, curries. We talk about the backgrounds and where all of these foods came from in terms of the ethnic lineage.

On the other side we have this collection of artifacts. So it's culinary implements and utensils like the sticks that chefs use to make roti and the stick that they used to turn coucou in Barbados. And the different types of pots and pans.

The Caribbean Culinary Museum Exhibition explores the history and origins of the foods typical to the Caribbean.