LargeUp: What, in your opinion, makes Jamaican food exceptional?
Robin Lim Lumsden: The quality of the ingredients. Our Chinese food in Kingston is amazing because of the ingredients. I’ve been to China, and I’ve spoken to people that own restaurants there who ask, “Why does Jamaican Chinese food taste so good?” Our fruit is out of this world—right now it’s mango season, and there are star apples…I have two acres of ortaniques, which are a tangerine orange derivative, I have like 10 different types of mangoes, I have avocados—all in my own garden. What makes our food different is just the variety of tropical stuff…and the taste.
I don’t know what it is about the Blue Mountains. I mean we grow great marijuana, but people don’t understand the quality of the other products—the thyme from St. Elizabeth, there’s no thyme like that in the world. The ginger that we grow, there’s no ginger like that in the world. Up in the mountains I get herbs, like parsley and rosemary. When we come down with bunches of rosemary, my whole house smells like [gestures inhaling]. I know there are other more famous places like France, and Peru—but Jamaica’s a small little volcanic island that has all these hills, and rainfall and mist. The coffee is sensational… the scallion in St. Elizabeth, i just can’t even describe it to you. Our scotch bonnet peppers.
I like our tough corn. I don’t need to eat soft corn from Iowa. The boiled corn on the side of the road is just perfect for me. I love street food.
LU: Where are your favorite places to eat in Kingston?
RL: My all-time favorite is Miss Gloria’s in Port Royal, where the cars nearly drive you over because you’re in the middle of the road, and the man with the jukebox made out of plastic bottles comes to sing. Then, there’s Hellshire Beach on a Saturday morning, if you can get there before 9. The steamed fish with pumpkin is literally to die for—if I had to pick a last meal, that might be it. Just simple rice and peas cooked in an Ital way—and you smell the thyme and the coconut milk and you’re using fresh beans, not even dried beans…that’s a meal in itself. Of course the jerk pork—I go to Scotchie’s a lot, I love Boston Jerk, I love Patty’s. But really the best food in Jamaica is in the homes, has always been. My friends that cook, when they invite you over—you’ve been given a gift.