Riding high off of her debut cookbook The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking which was awarded the James Beard Award in 1967, Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz set off on a seven year adventure throughout the Caribbean islands in research for her sophomore effort.
The result would be the gargantuan, meticulously researched epic The Complete Book of Caribbean Cooking published in 1973. I can’t imagine a more pivotal moment to have toured through the Caribbean. Imagine what Jamaica would have been like: brimming with the vibrant hey-day of ska and rocksteady reggae in the late 60s, culminating in the cultural treasures of They Harder They Come in 1972 and Catch a Fire in 1973.
There is a special joy I get from making the same Jamaican meat patties that Jimmy Cliff might have eaten, or cooking what may very well have been Bob Marley’s favorite curry. We’ll never know exactly what lunch in Kingston, Jamaica would have been like in 1969, but, thanks to Ortiz, we get pretty damn close. As a child growing up for several years in Jamaica, Ortiz was uniquely positioned to bring the flavours of the Caribbean to the continental U.S. and she does just that. These recipes hold nothing back. They make no effort to gentrify the flavours of Jamaica and God thank them for that. Briny, sweet, salty, pungent, spicy; these dishes are an amazing snapshot into a monumental period in Jamaican history and are truly their own cultural treasures in and of themselves. I have had an immense pleasure in delving into the recipes and I hope you do too. And so, without further ado, I give you my favorite Jamaican recipes from Ortiz’s The Complete Book of Caribbean Cooking: