Ribs! Caribbean Fusion Cuisine: Embracing My Jamaican-Costa Rican Heritage

This post explores the author's unique Jamaican-Costa Rican heritage and the delicious fusion cuisine that emerged from it. From jerk ribs to arroz con coco, this article celebrates the flavors and traditions of Caribbean fusion cooking.

3/10/20232 min read

As a first-generation American whose grandparents immigrated from Jamaica, and parents immigrated from Costa Rica I grew up with a unique blend of Caribbean and Central American influences in my family's cooking. My earliest memories of Jamaican cuisine involve being in the kitchen with my tía Yvonne, who would whip up the most incredible jerk chicken. Even though we lived in Brooklyn, NY, she had perfected the art of Jamaican-style cooking that was passed down to her by our grandparents.

Jerk is a style of cooking that originated in Jamaica and involves marinating meat in a blend of spices and cooking it low and slow over wood smoke. The technique was developed by the Maroons, a group of escaped slaves who settled in the mountains of Jamaica and had to rely on their ingenuity and the resources around them to survive. They would slow cook their food with local ingredients underground to avoid detection from European invaders.

When it comes to making jerk ribs, I prefer to use a smoker, as that is how the technique was originally developed. The wood smoke adds a unique depth of flavor that cannot be replicated through other cooking methods. However, if a smoker is not available, grilling or baking in the oven can also yield delicious results.

One thing I love about making jerk ribs is that it brings back memories of family gatherings and backyard parties. While the meat was slow-cooking, my cousins Tanya, Alonso, Darnell, and I would run around the yard playing tag or hide and seek. As the aroma of the meat filled the air, the rest of the family would start trickling in, and soon the music would start playing. Tío Willie would be deeply entrenched in a game of dominoes, tio Mario and my mom would pull out the drums and everyone would dance to reggae, soca, merengue, and salsa. Tía Conchi would direct the festivities, while Tía Yvonne would be the life of the party, making sure everyone had a drink in their hand and a plate of food. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, if the kids ever got out of hand Tio Dorman would walk outside give us a look and point his finger and we all knew "whats understood doesn't need to be said lol!

In the end, the best part of making jerk ribs is sharing them with loved ones and creating new memories. Whether it's a big family gathering or a small backyard barbecue, jerk ribs are sure to be a hit and bring a taste of the Caribbean to any occasion.