The earliest inhabitants of the Caribbean islands were the three Indian tribes of Arawak, Carib, and Taino. Their daily food comprised of vegetables and fruits. It was the Taino tribe that first started cooking meat and fish, using large clay vessels for this purpose.
The Arawaks took a different way and used thin strips of green wood to cook meat more slowly and allowing it to absorb the flavor of the wood. The wooden grate they used was called barbacoa and now you know where the term barbeque comes from.
Not to be left behind, the Carib tribe made their fish and meat recipes really spicy by adding pepper sauces, lime, and lemons. In fact, the Caribs are credited with having cooked the first pepper pot stew.
The last of the above three has had a tremendous impact on Caribbean food, which should not be surprising because the Caribbean Sea was named after this tribe. In the present day, Caribbean food is still a representative of the food that was originally eaten by the early inhabitants and includes okra, fish cakes, callaloo, ackee, salt fish, pudding, souse, cassava, yams, sweet potatoes, plantains, and mangoes. The concept of “jerk” cooking has also originated in the Caribbean when early African hunters would often leave their homes to go on long hunts and take with them pork cooked in a very spicy recipe over hot coals.
In the post-slavery era, Indian cooking culture was introduced in Caribbean food recipes and still remains an active part of the Caribbean cuisine. Most of the curried meats and curry powder recipes that are found today are directly derived from original Indian cuisine.
Rice was introduced to the Caribbean by the Chinese and is now a staple. The Chinese also unleashed mustard on the islanders while the Portuguese sailors did the codfish. Most of the fruit trees that are familiar to the visitors to the island were actually brought here by the Spain and include orange, ginger, lime, figs, plantains, sugar cane, tamarinds, grapes, and coconuts. America brought with it the various beans, squash, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and chili pepper to the island. In fact, some of these food spread to the rest of world through the Caribbean, before which, they were unknown.
This are but some of the few reasons why Caribbean food is so unique and creative. Flavors from all over the world have found a home in Caribbean food through countless generations and the flow of history.