The people of the Caribbean, located in the seas by the equator, are a vastly interesting and diverse group of people. Their culture is as pervasive and diverse as they are, spreading over a total of twenty seven islands alone – this is, of course, not counting the island under the rule of continental countries such as those in north, central and south America.

The cuisine of the Caribbean islands is based mainly upon what is grown on the island and what can be procured from around it. The people of the Caribbean then eat a lot of fish, vegetables and tropical fruit. They also utilize every bit of the animals native to the island as a part of their dietary staples. The foods that are a part of the Caribbean culture are almost as pure when eaten as they are when grown and picked – they are natural and healthy, adding very few things that are produced by man, otherwise considered artificial.

The restaurants that the two of us had explored had their own differences and similarities. The first place that we had entered did a better job of imitating a Caribbean-style culinary institution than any other. We went into Golden Krust, a restaurant in Tompkinsville, which served everything from meat and vegetable patties to fried plantains, oxtails and certain meat-based soups. The plantains were

a typical Caribbean cuisine as were the meat and vegetable/soy patties. The soups were also typical of a Caribbean cuisine as they consisted of vegetables and meats found on the various Caribbean islands. Dishes like jerk chicken, fish and rice, and goat curry are also native to the islands, which were served at Golden Krust. The atmosphere of the restaurant imitated that of a shack that would be found on an island: it was bright, sported wooden palm trees for decoration and was built like a roadside establishment, which was inviting to passersby. The restaurant, however, was also built to fit into the American culture, with sodas alongside natural fruit juices, an ATM machine (which one would assume would not be found in a typical, native Caribbean establishment) and food targeted directly to the American audience, such as buffalo wings. The clientele of Golden Krust was mainly the Caribbean community or people who ate tropical and natural foods regularly.

The second establishment that we visited was a small Caribbean shop called Island Roti Bakery Shop and was fashioned after Trinidad and Tobago. The food served in this establishment was very similar to that of Golden Krust in that oxtails, jerk chicken and curry was served, as well as fried plantains. The clientele of this restaurant was varied as opposed to that of the first restaurant and they received their customers by word of mouth from those who enjoyed the cuisine. The elements of this culinary establishment were similar to that of Golden Krust in the sense that it was catering to the American audience by including soda machines but the decoration was much different. While not as bright as GK, the Island Roti Bakery Shop had pictures and paintings of different types of clothes worn in the Caribbean and South American countries. It also had figurines from the islands that were handcrafted, which gave it a more genuine feel.

One thing that intrigued the two of us and that we learned from this experience about the culinary arts of the Caribbean is that while curry is on the menu in different dishes, it is not native to the islands. After speaking with the owners at the Roti Bakery, the two of us learned that curry was brought over to the West Indies from the East Indies. The rest of the food – oxtails; jerk chicken; rice; vegetables, grilled, steamed and cooked; goat; and fried plantains were all native and natural to the Caribbean islands, thus providing the clientele with a realistic idea of what the native people eat regularly.

By participating in these institutions’ culture through cuisine, we learned as a group what the people of the Caribbean treasure: culture, that which is natural, and openness. The people were very welcoming and happy to include us in their culture, which was pleasing.

Being that she is already of Caribbean culture, Jenna could not see the culture through a stranger’s eyes. I, on the other hand, was able to differentiate and compare the culture of the Caribbean peoples to that of my own, the Russian culture. While Caribbean cuisine is based around food grown in the tropical region, such as fruits, fish and meats, Russian cuisine is based upon foods from the sea (mostly fish and shellfish), vegetables and fruits grown in rocky areas and meats from animals like goats, sheep, chicken and pigs. The comparison between the animals, fruits and grains used in the average person’s diet whether in the Caribbean or in Eastern Europe/Asia is similar, they are used in different ways. Food from the Caribbean is more natural and less altered while a typical Russian’s cuisine includes a lot of food that is altered when cooked in oil. Caribbean grains also include a lot of rice while Russians eat a lot of barley and buckwheat.

The experience of visiting and being immersed in Caribbean culture was eye opening. While it was superficially identical to that which the average person expects it to be, the Caribbean culture is much more dynamic and diverse than expected and the people are very open to other cultures, catering to those around them.