Food, Glorious Food - 1! From the Ridiculous to the Sublime...

If you enjoy eating well and your idea of adventure starts with a knife and fork, Jamaica is your island.  Don your baggy trousers, slip on your roomy mumu and come to Jamaica prepared to eat!  Here are a couple of easy suggestions and reasons why I think they are great.  Start with Jerk cuisine and Scotchies – everyone’s favorite.Scotchies

Scotchies know what they are doing.  The meat is well seasoned and cooked over coals and pimento wood, covered with zinc.  It’s not too spicey hot, but you can fire it up with a beautiful sauce they serve on the side.  Their menu is simple – Jerk chicken and pork sold by weight and starchy side dishes of your choice.  They also do an excellent steam fish cooked to order.  There is always a very good soup of the day.  And here is the tip… leave a little room for Sweet Potatoe Pudding.

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Scotchies Sweet Potatoe Pudding is some of the best I’ve ever tasted.  Scotchies has 3 locations – Montego Bay (the original), Ocho Rios and Kingston.

 

 

 

 

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Just west of Montego Bay, on your way to Negril or if you are heading to the South Coast, just before you reach Long Hill, you will find MVP Smokehouse.  They also specialize in smoked meats (including ribs, which Scotchies only does once a week), but their menu is broader with a selection of traditional Jamaican dishes, like Oxtail and Curried Goat, (and if you are at all trepidatious, this is a wonderful place to try those dishes) as well as wraps and salads.   Boris and Michelle Reid, proprietors, are also farmers.  Their meals are balanced and wholesome.  You can order a fresh juice as easily as a Red Stripe.

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Poor Man's Pelican

Poor Man’s Pelican

I don’t think there is a name for this little Cookshop in Montego Bay  (directly across the street from Mega Mart, just off the highway before the turn off to Freeport and the Cruise ship Pier).  It is known simply as “Poor Man’s Pelican”.  The Pelican, being a local institution offering Jamaican food and hamburgers, on the hipstrip, best remembered for it’s milkshakes and inflated prices.  PMP is an institution in it’s own right, with all the earmarks of a really great Jamaican “Cookshop” – fast, home-cooked food, hearty meals served in styrafom boxes to go.  Meals are served in Small, Medium and Large sizes and are extremely reasonably priced. Breakfast foods – Ackee & Saltfish, Liver, stewed chicken dishes, Mackrel Run-down among them, are accompanied by liberal helpings of Yard food, yam, pumpkin, green banana and dumpling, boiled and fried.  Rice and Peas take the place of Yard food and dumpling for Lunch and Dinner.  Ackee

Yummy Ackee & Saltfish from Poor Man’s Pelican.  That’s me at the counter about to dig in!

 

 

 

CS1One thing about Country Style Restaurant, (another Cookshop, found on the north coast highway, approximately half mile west of Falmouth), is you can count on them. They are dedicated, they are open long hours, their food is good and the price is right.   The old adage – good food attracts Carriage Trade, rings true.

Cabbage & Saltfish Breakfast

Cabbage & Saltfish Breakfast

6:30 AM. already at the counter you will find a healthy mix of bus and taxi drivers identifiable by red plated vehicles parked outside, and salesmen with company logos embroidered on starched oxford shirts, ready to fortify themselves for the day ahead.

I talked with Chef Miller, Country Style proprietor one day about his career, and he told me he’s been cooking professionally for over 20 years. Miller is a churchman and he attributes his strength and steadiness to his faith in the Lord. I enjoyed listening to Chef complain about the price of Oxtail, and the fact he still has to cook it because the people demand it. It does not matter how expensive it gets, Jamaica is not giving up Oxtail. The way Chef talks, you know he appreciates his clientele, and clearly he cooks to please them.cs3

A sign that says “dinner will not be served in plate after 9PM” makes me smile. Chef puts his foot down, dinner done, dishes washed, time to go home. At Country Style Restaurant breakfast comes early 7 days a week.

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And for the sublime.  Take yourself to Jamaica Inn, in Ocho Rios, for a sundowner.

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Jamaica Inn is a classic – a Caribbean hotel that maintains a dignity and elegance hard to find in this man’s world.  They also still shake up an unbeatable traditional Jamaican Rum Punch, whose recipe goes like this:  1 part sour (lime), 2 parts sweet (sugar), 3 parts strong (rum – make it dark Jamaican rum), 4 parts weak (water & ice).  If you arrive for drinks at sunset, horsdourves are complimentary.

Jamaica’s diversity is what makes it real and what makes it fun and never ever boring. Come to Jamaica to eat.  Explore the markets, venture into a Cookshop, vow you will taste the best Jerk on the island…  if you’d like some help, give me a call!

About the author

Lynda Lee Burks has lived in Jamaica most of her adult life. She supports her passion for living by the sea, by organizing tours of Jamaica, producing events – dub poets to destination weddings, and as artist and teacher.  

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