Mary Luz Mejia
Crowned the Caribbean’s “spice island,” Grenada’s past has seen a treasure trove of exotic spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg make their way across the Atlantic to perfume the dishes of the moneyed classes. Located 160 km north of Venezuela, visitors will notice the influence of French, African, Spanish and native Amerindian history and culture; from the Creole spoken on the streets to the foods found on dining room tables.
Despite these varied influences, the island’s African roots and Carib Amerindian/Indian accents contribute the most to their curries, dhal puri and rotis. If you’re looking for the national dish, look no further than the “oil down.” This stick-to-your-ribs meal includes chicken, salt beef, flour dumplings, yam, green plantain and breadfruit with a hit of callaloo leaves. The dish is cooked in a coconut milk that gets fully absorbed, leaving some of its oil at the bottom of the pot – hence the name.
If you ask a local where to savour the island’s best, you’ll be directed to Deyna’s Tasty Foods in St. George’s. This no-frills, downtown favourite, owned by chef Deyna Hercules and her husband, only serves the time-intensive oil down on Fridays. Go early because it sells out fast! Other tasty island options at Deyna’s include roti, and stewed fish or pork served with traditional trimmings such as fried rice, sautéed noodles and provision (boiled starchy tubers).
Another “must” is the island’s famous fish fry on the main strip of Gouyave in St. John’s Parish. Every Friday from 6pm onward, vendors line the streets of the vibrant fishing village, offering a banquet of seafood. From within a string of stalls, cooks expertly prepare jerked marlin, lobsters, conch and grilled snapper alongside fry jacks and fish cakes. Live music, in the form of the island’s soca, calypso and reggae set off a boisterous street party. Wash dinner down with a locally produced rum punch and prepare to be enchanted.
Every story deserves a sweet ending, in this case it’s an organic Grenada Chocolate Company chocolate bar (www.grenadachocolate.com). The late Mott Green and his two partners were the first to pioneer organic cocoa cultivation in Grenada’s rainforest by growing, harvesting, fermenting and toasting the beans themselves at the company’s organic farm and cooperative. This approach means they preserve their unique flavours and create a more sustainable and ethical production model. Chocolate experts say the company’s bars offer fruity acidity with a hint of figs. Paired with the island’s sumptuous spices, it’s easy to see a towering chocolate cake or spiced chocolate mousse upon any culinary traveller’s return home.