Caribbean Crown Heights

I live in Crown Heights, and it’s very Caribbean.  I walk into my grocery and see so many of the products I find in the shops when I’m in Jamaica: Ting, Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce, Verdé sparkling wine, whole shelves of Grace goods.  It’s great.  When I’m feeling ‘homesick’ for Jamaica (in quotes because I am not from Jamaica, but there’s no other word to describe the feeling) I just have to walk down the street to get a mini-fix.  I can find pattie places, sorrel drinks and saltfish ready to be soaked and sauteed.

A week or so ago I thought I saw something even more a balm to homesickness than the availability of Ting.  But I was in a hurry and didn’t stop to look more closely.

Then, two days ago on the bus I had that quick glimpse confirmed.  We were passing a house and out front, tucked up against the stairs, were two jerk cookers: steel drums on their sides set into frames and cut length-wise so they can open like barbeque grills.  (That is really a terrible description!  Look here to see a nice, clean and pretty version of what they look like.)

Mmm … jerk has become one of my favorite food preparations: shrimp, chicken, pork … all are delicious.  Best, though, is lobster.  Jerk lobster transcends a word like ‘delicious.’  In Jamaica, you see the split-open oil drums everywhere — big, official jerk joints and tiny, roadside stands.  And everyone’s jerk is different.  all are spicy, but the choice of spices for the marinade varies, the consistency runs from gravy-like to stew to thick, chunky paste to near-dry rub.  All the versions I’ve tried have been delicious.

Seeing those cookers made me think about Harry outside his “Gold Coast” restaurant chopping up chickens, getting them ready for his thick, dark marinade … and down the road from Harry’s there’s a little grocery where, on a Friday, there’s excellent jerk chicken and conch soup being served up … and a little further down the road there’s the beautiful, mosaic-covered grill at the resort where I stayed on my first trip … Mmm … jerk.

And now I’m seeing the cookers everywhere!  Come summer, I think there’s going to be a whole lot of grilling going on.  Those cookers are just a style of barbeque grills, so they don’t necessarily mean jerk, but in this neighborhood they kind of must mean jerk, I think.  Yesterday I noticed they have one on the side of the house two doors down.  I think I, um, need to go make friends with my neighbors …

3 thoughts on “Caribbean Crown Heights

  1. Oh, Mopsy … always making me do my homework!

    So here’s an excerpt from the introduction to Helen Willinsky’s Jerk: Barbecue from Jamaica:

    “People always ask me, ‘How did jerk get its name?’ … almost everyone has a pet theory. Some people say it is called jerk because the meat is turned over and over again — or jerked over and over again — as it cooks over the fire. Others say … it is called jerk when it is served, the jerk man pulls — or, you see, jerks — a portion of meat off the bone. To me, it does not matter what it is called, or why. What counts is flavor.”

    I’d have to agree with that last bit!

    The second origin rings most true for me, connecting with the ‘pulled pork’ sandwiches I ate in Louisiana: barbecued meat pulled (jerked) off the bone and served up.


  2. aka Mopsy

    Dear GiGri: I cannot pass up the opportunity to make you work a little harder – especially given your recent dental trauma. Is there such a thing as Jerk yoghurt? ~ Mopsy


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