Les Antilles: Cuisine and Music
In my attempt to find out more about the cuisine and music from the islands in les Antilles, I tried to look at my research as finding fun facts or interesting things about the countries involved. It was fun to look at how Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guyana had so much in common with one another in both of this aspects, but also how unique they were in terms of what they ate and listened to.
In Guadeloupe, they eat lots of seafood dishes and actually have the second highest fish consumption per capita in the world. The food is a fusion of French cuisine with African, Asian and Caribbean styles with ingredients like plantains, sea urchins, crayfish, octopus, lobster, crab and many different types of fish. Their most popular drink is rum and one can find many award winning distilleries scattered around the island.
One dish that I found interesting is called “Boudin” or “Spicy Blood Sausage”. It is made of pork or beef, lard, onions, eggs, bread crumbs, spices and rice. The process of preparing this dish involves steaming rice in pig’s blood and then afterwards, stuffing it into the animal’s intestine to be boiled. Honestly, I picked this dish, and most of my other dishes, because of how gross it sounded and I was so appalled that anyone actually ate something with that name. I was later even more appalled that Kenya had a dish similar to this one. I don’t think I will be trying it any time soon…
My next dish was something that actually sounded very appetizing when I first saw the picture of what it was. The ingredients kind of turned me off for a little bit, but after further review, I reverted back to thinking I would like this dish. The Creole Avocado is eaten as an appetizer or a side dish and the ingredients include avocados, rice, crab sticks, tomatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, Tabasco sauce, ketchup, lemon juice, salt & pepper, and more herbs. To me, it sounds very refreshing and something I could eat for days and days and not get sick of.
Here you find the influence of Caribbean, Chinese, Surinamese, Haitian and Brazilian cuisine in their food. It is largely made up of rice, plantains, cassava, coconut, sweet potato, meats and fish. Curry and Chinese foods are widely popular across Guyana. The most celebrated time for food is Christmas and “Old Year’s Night” or the New Year. Some of the more popular drinks here are homemade fruit drinks called local drink and another beverage named ginger beer. Ginger beer can be compared to the North American drink, eggnog, that is drunk at Christmas time and tastes like a thicker milk with cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices.
The first Guyana dish I chose was something called Pepper Pot. Pepper Pot is the national dish of Guyana and is served at holidays like Christmas along with other special occasions. The ingredients included are meat (can either be beef, pork or mutton), cinnamon, hot peppers, and cassareep, a thick black liquid made from the root of the cassava.
Secondly, I chose a more interesting dish called iguana stew. The people of Guyana do indeed eat iguana, a large lizard, and one of the forms of eating it can be in a stew, like this one.
They first cut the head off the iguana, clean out the insides of the lizard that cannot be eaten and then they cook the insides. After cooking those parts, they chop them up and mix them together with onion, garlic, tomatoes, green peppers, achiote oil and salt & pepper in a stew. Personally, I don’t find it very appetizing but it must have some nutritional benefit if they eat it.
I found that this country had the most French influence intertwined into their cuisine in that their breakfast looks like a typical French “petit-dejeuner”, fresh baguettes and croissants. They also kept the traditional 2 hour lunch, the main meal of the day. Martinique is not a colony of France, but an overseas department, meaning that Martinicians are also French citizens. Another interesting fact is that around Easter, crab becomes very popular as many families migrate to the beaches over the holiday weekend.
So, I chose a dish that many Islanders eat around this time. This dish is called “Matoutou de Crabe”. The process of making this dish a bit unconventional in that the people either catch or buy the crab a few weeks before Easter, and during this time, they feed the crabs spices and vegetables in order to enhance the flavor. When the crabs are ready to be eaten, after cooking them, they stuff the crabs with rice, onions, tomatoes, chives, spices and serve the crabs with a spicy sauce.
The second dish from Martinique that I chose was also a seafood dish, but this one included octopus. “Chatrou” or octopus, is used in many dishes and in this case, it is used in a stew called Fricassee de Chatrou. This meal includes tomatoes, onions, lemons and other spices. I also found out that this dish is frequently taken as a “to go” dish just as an American may take a hamburger to go. I found this surprising.
When I began my research on music in les Antilles, I found that Martinique and Guadeloupe had much of the same styles of music that could be found around the island. One of these styles is the oldest form of music from Guadeloupe and Martinique and it is called “Gwo Ka” or “Big Drum”. The Ka is the base of the music there and Gwo Ka was the first form of music to appear around these areas. The singing that goes along with Gwo Ka has a rough, nasally sound one can sometimes find that the dances accompanied with the music tell old folk stories. Here is a sample of the music: https://youtu.be/y6h1MJNchoQ
Another style of music is Zouk which became popular in the 1980s thanks to the French Antillean band by the name of Kassav’. They were widely popular in this genre of music. Zouk comes from the French word “secouer” which means to shake intensely and repeatedly. This music is very up beat and catchy. Here is a sample of Zouk: https://youtu.be/djkq6c57dUU
Moving onto to Guyana, I found a few styles that I was a little more familiar with or at least that I had heard of before. Calypso has had a big influence on the country and is a form of syncopated Afro-Caribbean music It was developed during the colonial times largely as a means of communication among African slaves in the French and British islands of the Caribbean. To listen to a sample, click here: https://youtu.be/SuHh2ZCazg8 . Reggae, which is often associated with Jamaica and with lyrics deal with issues like poverty, religion, love, sex, injustice and relationships, is also popular in the Antilles. https://youtu.be/M_O-bQFt30w .
Guyana was also the first country to hose CARIFESTA which stands for “Caribbeans Festival of Arts” which was created as a way of bringing together artistic and creative skills of the people of the Caribbean countries. Writers, artist, and musicians are among those who come to show off their work.
Overall, I really enjoyed looking into these two cultural aspects of these three countries and I feel as though I understand their countries and their French influences after having done this research.