Happy Independence Day Jamaica! Celebrating with Pepper Shrimp & Other Cultural Foods

An island rich in heritage is, “Jamaica, Land We Love.” All persons should stand at attention at the playing of the national anthem.

The playing of the Jamaican national anthem was common practice each morning, before the start of the primary school I attended. All students would gather in the courtyard, stand at attention with heels together, and we’d pretend to be on our best behaviour. You see, as the anthem played, the majority of students were quietly humming a popular remixed version of lines two through four known by us all, while giggling our heart’s content.

Jamaica, Land We Love – The Jamaican National Anthem

Eternal Father, Bless our Land,
Guard us with thy mighty hand, (remix “guard us with thy frying pan”)
Keep us free from evil powers, (remix, “keep us free from weevil flour”)
Be our light through countless hours, (remix, “it will make our dumpling sour”)

In later years, I realized that us kids were obviously singing about crisp, tender-crusted, golden-brown, fried dumplings. Jamaican fried dumplings (also known as “Johnny” or “Journey Cakes”) are a popular bread-style side dish commonly paired with breakfast dishes like Ackee & Saltfish (Jamaica’s national dish) and Callaloo. They are made of simple, common ingredients. The dough is made with flour, cornmeal (optional), baking powder, butter and salt. The technique to knead dumplings can be compared to pastry-making and is easily mastered. The butter adds good flavour.

Respectfully, here’s the rest of the anthem:

To our leaders, great defender,
Grant true wisdom from above,
Justice, truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, land we love,
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica, land we love.

Teach us true respect for all,
Stir response of duty’s call,
Strengthen us the weak to cherish,
Give us vision lest we perish,
Knowledge send us Heavenly Father,
Grant true wisdom from above,
Justice, truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, land we love,
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica, land we love.

National Symbols

The Jamaican Flag The Jamaica National Flag was first raised on Independence Day, August 6, 1962. It signifies the birth of the nation. The Constitution, the most fundamental legal document in the country, guaranteeing the freedom, rights and privileges of every Jamaican citizen, took effect on August 6, 1962 when Jamaica gained political independence from Britain, after more than 300 years of British colonial rule. The Flag brings to mind memories of past achievements and gives inspiration towards further success. It is flown on many triumphant occasions, showing the pride that Jamaicans have in their country and in the flag itself.

“The sun shineth, the land is green and the people are strong and creative” is the symbolism of the colours of the flag. Black depicts the strength and creativity of the people; Gold, the natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and green, hope and agricultural resources.

Coat of Arms The Jamaican national motto is ‘Out of Many One People’, based on the population’s multiracial roots.

Ackee Ackee (Blighia sapida) is the national fruit of Jamaica as well as a component of the dish – ackee and codfish. Although the ackee is not indigenous to Jamaica, it has remarkable historic associations. Originally, it was imported to the island from West Africa. Now it grows here luxuriantly, producing large quantities of edible fruit each year. Ackee is a very delicious fruit and when boiled and cooked with seasoning and salt fish or salt pork, it is considered one of Jamaica’s greatest delicacies.

Doctor Bird The doctor bird or swallow tail humming bird (Trochilus Polytmus), is one of the most outstanding of the 320 species of hummingbirds. It lives only in Jamaica.

Blue Mahoe The Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus Elatus) is the national tree of Jamaica. It is indigenous to the island and grows quite rapidly, often attaining 20m (66ft) or more in height. In wetter districts it will grow in a wide range of elevations, up to 1200m (4000 ft.) and is often used in reforestation. The tree is quite attractive with its straight trunk, broad green leaves and hibiscus-like flowers. The attractive flower changes colour as it matures, going from bright yellow to orange red and finally to crimson.

The name mahoe is derived from a Carib Indian word. The ‘blue’ refers to blue-green streaks in the polished wood, giving it a distinctive appearance.

Lignum Vitae This short, compact tree is native to continental tropical American and the West Indies. In Jamaica, it grows best in the dry woodland along the north and south coasts of the island. The plant is extremely ornamental, producing an attractive blue flower and orange-yellow fruit, while its crown has an attractive rounded shape. The tree is one of the most useful in the world. Its name, when translated from Latin, means “wood of life” – probably adopted because of its medicinal qualities.

The history of Jamaica is a rich and vibrant one. The history of Jamaica inspire the people to move forward as a nation. Jamaica’s history speaks to experiences of hardships and prosperity; and the growth and determination of a people. Happy Independence Day.

Jerk Chicken: It’s A Jamaican Thing

“Jerk” is a type of cooking native to Jamaica. Meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice or jerk seasoning. The cooking technique of jerking, as well as the results it produces, has evolved over time from using pit fires to old barrel halves as container of choice. Street-side jerk stands are frequently found in Jamaica. The barrels used to cook the chicken are fired with charcoal, which enhances the spicy, smoky taste. Alternatively, when these cooking methods are unavailable, my method for roasting the chicken whole, can be used. The crisp skin and moist interior for which roast chicken is justly renown, are just some of the fleeting qualities achieved when using this method.

Jerk seasoning principally relies upon two items: allspice (also known as “pimento” in Jamaica) and scotch bonnet peppers. Other ingredients may include cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, ginger and salt. Jerk seasoning is traditionally applied to pork and chicken. Modern recipes also apply jerk seasoning to fish, shrimp, beef, vegetables or tofu.

Jamaican Drinks

Fruits are the original dessert; their sweet taste entices us. This is because our palates crave the unique balance of sweet and tart that really good fruits provide. When we consume them, their healthfulness rewards us unlike “fruit-flavoured” drinks like sodas. The juice of fresh fruits like mango, guava, pineapple and soursop, make up an important part of the daily intake of food in Jamaica. Not to mention, nothing beats drinking the water of a freshly cut jelly coconut in the warm, tropical climate.

Jamaica is also known for its traditional drinks. Sorrel for example, is the favourite festive Christmas drink of Jamaica! Like fine winemaking, sorrel-making is an established activity, the roots of which go back generations. Making sorrel especially during the Christmas season, is a tradition practiced worldwide. Ginger beer, carrot juice and sugar cane juice also popular fruit juice drinks. Jamaica is also the home of world renowned Blue Mountain Coffee.

The History of Jamaica

The original inhabitants of Jamaica are believed to be the Arawaks, also called Tainos. They named the island Xaymaca, which meant “land of wood and water”. The Arawaks grew cassava, sweet potatoes, maize (corn), fruits, vegetables, cotton and tobacco. Tobacco was grown on a large scale as smoking was a popular pastime. They built their villages all over the island but most of them settled on the coasts and near rivers as they fished to get food. Fish was also a major part of their diet.

Pepper Shrimp

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Wonderful, spicy, Jamaican inspired street eats.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. shrimp, shell on
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, cut in half
  • 4 – 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar

Directions

In a large skillet or dutch pot, heat the oil, on medium to high heat. Add the garlic and pepper. Add the shrimp. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with the green onion, allspice and salt.

Add the vinegar and continue to cook for an additional 3 – 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain on paper towel. Serve warm or cold.

Tip(s):

Serve with lemon wedges.

Substitute the olive oil with butter.

See more: Food You’ll Love Cooking

Callaloo-Stuffed Tortillas

Fried Dumplings

Green Plantain Vegetable Soup

Jamaican Honey Glazed Easter Bun

Sorrel Drink

Soursop Fruit Shake

Whole-roasted Jerk Chicken

33 thoughts on “Happy Independence Day Jamaica! Celebrating with Pepper Shrimp & Other Cultural Foods

  1. Thank you so much for introducing Jamaican culture to us dear Eartha! So many things to educate one in this post. And the finale, with the shrimp recipe, was the perfect epilogue 🙂 Can’t wait to try this one out! Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello my Grecian friends! I’m so glad you enjoyed this little dose of Jamaican culture. It was important for me to write this piece and acknowledge Jamaica’s independence. This was also a learning experience for me – a lot of the reasons behind the ways of Jamaican culture became more apparent. We’ve been ruled by many, but not conquered.
      I would like to see this island flourish in economic growth, especially in its own agriculture.
      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. Hope you’ll enjoy the shrimp. xoxo

      Like

    • Haha, so did you whip up some pepper shrimp for breakfast? Yes, Jamaican food is very yummy! Thank you. I barely scratched the surface.
      Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Like

  2. What an awesome history lesson, Eartha! And mixed in with so many wonderful good dishes!

    Johnny cakes were a favorite of my late dad’s. He was a southerner, born and raised in the early 1900s, but the recipe and photo look very similar to what I’m used to. Wonder if there’s a connection?

    Already saved your recipe for Sorrel…’cuz you know I gotta’ try it during the holidays! 😊

    Happy Independence Day! 😉

    (FYI – “Sushi Day” will be in mid-September. Doing a mini test batch later this month! 👍)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Felicia, thank you for your comments. Jamaica is very diverse – hence their motto “Out Of Many One People.” The history of the food influenced by colonialism. I would not be surprised if there is a connection between your late Dad’s recipe for “Johnny Cakes” and Jamaican dumplings

      Can’t wait to see sushi day pics, and not just for the pics but the meaning behind it for you.

      Warning: Sorrel is addictive!

      As always, nice chatting with you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a colorful post depicting Jamaica and all the gorgeous food there. We were at a Bob Marley festival this past Saturday, I enjoyed a whole grilled red snapper with black beans and rice and plantains. Where in Toronto is the Jamaican area?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Loretta! Thank you so much for the comment. This post could have gone on forever! There’s just SO MUCH good food to talk about, not to mention national heroes, the wonder that is Usain Bolt, and of course the history and influence of reggae music, and Bob Marley. Jamaica is rich in heritage.

      You can find influences of Jamaican culture all throughout the Greater Toronto Area. There are many restaurants and Caribbean grocers. Just yesterday Toronto held its yearly Toronto Caribbean Carnival attracting visitors from all over the globe.

      Here’s a link to one method I use to cook red snapper. My all time favourite fish! https://www.instagram.com/p/BJ5KUyNDBQG/

      Truly appreciate you checking out the post, Loretta. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Eartha. We used to live in Toronto and come back to visit a few times a year. I recall the big Caribana festival in August, my what a gorgeous get together of sight and sound. What’s the fish seasoning that you use on the red snapper? Is it garlic and black pepper or other spices as well? Nothing quite like a whole grilled fish for me, bones and all 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • I agree with grilling bones and all! To season the fish I do use black pepper, sea salt and fish seasoning. I also sprinkle the inside of the fish with with a little garlic powder and allspice. And don’t get me started on my whole oven baked fish, well seasoned, stuffed and wrapped in foil… I’m now inspired to post a recipe.
          Where was the Bob Marley festival btw?

          Like

          • It was in Wilmington, Delaware where we live. He used to live in Wilmington and some of the original band members are still in the band that played at the end of the concert. Fish seasoning? Still not quite sure, is this a special Caribbean seasoning for fish? Would love to see your post on the oven baked whole fish if you do write one. Thanks 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

          • Hi Loretta, thanks for that history lesson. Yes, fish seasoning is Caribbean. It gives fish an extra special taste!
            It was really nice chatting with you. Thanks again for stopping by. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

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