Dishing up some Culture — Jamaica celebrates World Sustainable Gastronomy Day

Thursday, June 21, 2018

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Jamaica joined other UN member states in commemorating World Sustainable Gastronomy Day on Monday, June 18 under the gazebo on the East Lawn of Devon House. Hosted by Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange and supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Gastronomy Tourism Network, Tourism Linkages Network and the Jamaica Tourist Board, the event featured traditional and contemporary takes on Argentinian, South African, Thai, Italian and Jamaican dishes. There was also a very innovative cocktail that had finesse, international flair and appeal, all while keeping Jamaica at its core.

The Rundown Cocktail by Rockhouse Hotel bar supervisor Gossett Brown combined cooked salt mackerel, Scotch bonnet pepper, curry and fat-washed vodka to make a curiously delightful culinary cocktail. The first sip was like tasting the pot during the cooking of the titular dish and the vodka was the perfect spirit to balance the unctuous and creamy drink. Ambassador of the Republic of Argentina to Jamaica Ariel Fernández remarked, “This is the kind of cocktail that can get you drunk and sober at the same time.”

Participating countries, some represented by their consulates and embassies, allowed guests to sample time-honoured and modern dishes. South Africa served beef potjiekos (a traditional beef and vegetable stew) and spinach chilli bites. There was shrimp and chicken Pad Thai from Thailand. Argentina served empanadas. Italy showed up with a three-foot thin-crust pizza with five different flavour combinations that included callaloo and ackee. And Jamaica, not to be outdone, showed worldliness with herbed salmon with tomato jam paired with yam and salt fish reduced in coconut milk.

This was the only dish prepared on the spot. It was done by Jamaica Pegasus Hotel sous-chef Patrice Hussey with the assistance of Bartlett, Grange, and Royal Thai Honorary Consul General Thalia Lyn. The guest chefs donned chef hats and Jamaica-inspired aprons before embarking on the cooking demonstration. It was the highlight of the evening.

In his welcome address, Minister Bartlett mentioned three benefits of sustainable gastronomy: it promotes social enhancement and development, allows for the growth of the economy, and encourages better environmental practices. Although they did not participate in the food sampling Canada and the EU were present and the similarities that both territories share with Jamaica were discussed.

Canada and Jamaica have an almost indissoluble relationship due to cod. Laurie J Peters, Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, mentioned the cod connection in her address and also assured guests that some of the best jerk can be found in Toronto. Malgorzata Wasilewska, head of the European Union Delegation to Jamaica, said that it was impossible to speak for all 28 EU member countries, but she did acknowledge the shared similarities between her native Poland and Jamaica.

Eighty-eight per cent of tourists travel for food experiences and last year, 1.3 trillion US dollars was spent on travel globally. Of that amount, a staggering 40 per cent was spent on food. Gastronomy is undeniably a strong economic supporter and is an integral tool to aid cultural diversity across the world.

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