Ground Provisions: Robin Lim Lumsden On Jamaican Cooking

July 8, 2014


LU: What do you see for the future of Jamaican agriculture?

RL: Politically we went through two to three decades of terrible government—and basically, they killed agriculture. They started bringing in milk powder, nearly killed our dairy industry. Why? Because it’s cheap food.  So we killed off our dairy, and we import fish from the Asian countries and Belize. And then people get poorer so they fish smaller and smaller fish…so it’s harder and harder to get sea fish. Even for the bee industry—they’re still bringing in neonicotinoids, which Europe has banned. There’s a lack of support for agriculture—so I’m linking a lot into agriculture with a line of salad dressings, only for local markets. We do a honey and papaya one, and a creamy cilantro and yogurt one. Think of the environmental impact of bringing creamy cilantro dressing from the UK—it doesn’t make sense. To an island! When we can make yogurt, and we can make cilantro—it’s not that difficult.

Agriculture feeds us, it can be environmentally friendly, it employs people. It’s not rocket science. Why are we buying Kentucky Fried Chicken? Promote our local industries. We import all the grain. Let’s have some organic chicken eggs—it’s coming. Right now the economy’s so bad, it’s going to have a bit of a problem taking off. Though there’s this 1 percent that’s buying French wines and brie and whatnot.

Jamaica is very complex—it’s full of contradictions, and in a way it’s the microcosm of the world. The world is becoming much more diverse and interracial, people are traveling more and developing new tastes—but we do have these third-world issues, which makes it difficult for us as manufacturers and food purveyors to make it, when it should be easier. Food is complicated. Once you start to write a book you realize, and I’m grateful to be able to fulfill the dream of writing a book, but I had initially thought, food is light and uncontroversial. Well, quite the contrary. Food is controversial, and it is complex—it made me undress, who am I? I’m this white Jamaican that makes Chinese food and French food and loves stew peas as much as she loves Chinese chicken and cashew nuts. Where the hell does that comes from? And why does this remind me of Aunt Millie and this remind me of [my] Gamma, and they came from different planets, really? There’s a depth to food, and I’m very interested in it.

Coco Fritters

2 cups peeled and grated coco (taro root)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

2 scallions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon Scotch Bonnet pepper, finely diced

Oil for frying (olive or canola)

Mix everything together in a bowl. Pour 2 inches of oil in a saucepan and heat to 350 degrees. Drop teaspoonfuls into the hot oil. They are done when they float to the top and are brown. Place on paper towels to drain. Serve with your favorite hot sauce.