Tonight I made a Jamaican meal.
I mean I didn’t.
But I did.
I followed no recipe, based it on no particular meal and as far as I know used no ingredients from Jamaica or anywhere in the Caribbean. But it was Jamaican.
Throw some basil, some garlic and tomato at something and start thinking Italian and you start cooking Italian, even if no Italian has ever cooked anything like what you’re making in the order you’ve done it. The food doesn’t come from Italy, it’s no matter. It’s not inauthentic. Taste is about the mind and the heart as much as it is biology. There’s spirituality and creativity in there. When we travel we eat.
When we eat we travel.
I fried onions with some garlic and a green chili. I added salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg and a dash of curry powder. Then I added chickpeas, coconut milk, frozen peas and vegetable stock. Then the rice. Then the lid went down. Then all kinds of bubbling went down. Then stirring from time to time. Cooked (from lid on stage) for about 35-40 minutes. I fried some banana chunks on the side and served them on top.
It was a Jamaican meal. Not Jamaican because a Jamaican suggested it, because a Jamaican documented it, or because I adapted a Jamaican starting point. I’m sure all of my ingredients have spent their life on this side of the Atlantic. But it was Jamaican. To me. It was Jamaican to me! Something in it to me spoke of something, a vague, hazy tribute to a cuisine I’ve tried on a few scattered occasions. More than following specific instructions, I got into a mood, a feel and I did what I could. And I’m confident to call that Jamaican. Like I would something Italiany, Chineseish, or sort of Japanese.
That’s globalisation baby.
In a world often obsessed by who owns what and how we can monetise this or that food is riotously uncontrollable. Tastes go where they go and we follow them just as we follow our dreams that tell us, ‘A little more salt’, ‘Just put a pineapple in it’, ‘Bacon goes with toffee right…’
Imagine a haggis made by someone who had no idea how to go about it.
Actually perhaps don’t imagine that.
But what a lovely idea.
I would love to live in a Scotland that was increasingly welcoming and humane in its treatment of those who pay us the compliment of coming to live here. I want a ‘Haggis Pakora’ model of immigration where we don’t merely tolerate one another but actively seek new and exciting combinations. Where we don’t just follow the rules but we have a go at recipes when we have no idea if they’ll work. But we use a hopeful outlook, our memories of past experience, and a searching of the imagination to create and innovate and just have a go.
It’s dinner time.