Lets talk about Jamaica. This was our first stop on our cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines– and a place neither of us really knew much about other than than of course the obvious… weed, Bob Marley, more weed, and jerk chicken, four facts that in no way summarize the richness that we came to find during our time in Falmouth.
What is missed by what I would guess is a good portion of travelers to this little slice of Caribbean paradise is the depth and complexity of the culture, as well as the past and current struggles of the Jamaican people. Its hard to get a good look at their beautiful beaches and the slew of all inclusive beach front resorts and think of Jamaica as anything other than your one stop vacation station- but there is so much more to this country and its wonderful people.
So here’s our advice if you’re going to Jamaica, and especially if you’re short on time (coming by cruise ship or just a quick stay over) skip the umbrella drinks and don’t hop on the tour bus with a 1,000 other pasty sunscreen drenched consumers headed to the next stop catering to tourists- do something different, take some time to learn about the real Jamaica, you will 100% not regret it!
Falmouth wasn’t a stop on our original itinerary but thanks to terrible hurricanes decimating a large portion of the Caribbean and Virgin Islands, adjustments had to be made, so when we saw Jamaica pop up we were a little surprised and unsure how we were going to spend our time there. Every option we looked at seemed either way over priced, super inauthentic, and or some combination of the two, but then on a whim magic happened. Somehow by an accidental Google search we stumbled upon Jamaica Culinary Tours– we’d never done a food tour, but hell we both like to eat and history is cool too so we booked it, man are we glad we did!
We met our guides Sherri-lee and Steve at an easy to spot location that morning, and with just a teeny tiny group of eight of us (including the two guides) we set out around the city on foot. We sampled incredible fresh fruit from street vendors- um, did you know there’s a huge variety of coconuts? Including something called Jelly coconut ( we weren’t big fans, its a texture thing), went to local restaurants and gorged on all kinds of incredible dishes; Jamaican patties wrapped in cocoa bread (this is our new favorite thing), and of course jerk chicken. We ended the tour by sampling traditional desserts and sweets in a historical local home under a gorgeous almond tree.
Sherilee showing off some Ackee! Jamaica’s National Fruit, can also be its deadliest if improperly prepared!
We’re not even gonna lie- the food was beyond amazing. Like insane. But, the best part of the whole experience was learning how the foods connect to the local people. What makes Jamaica so interesting from a historical perspective and something that never occurred to us before visiting is that Jamaica is almost as big of a mixing pot as the US. Originally inhabited by the Taino people and ruled by the Spanish beginning in 1494 until it was taken by the British in 1655. During the British Colonial period, the island saw a massive influx of slaves to work the many sugar plantations that began to pop up as well as Chinese and Indian indentured servants from the Far East- we could have never anticipated the large Asian population we encountered there. Jamaican food is reflective of all these cultures rolled into one amazing culinary profile. In Jamaica you can literally taste the history. It’s pretty incredible.
One thing is for sure, you can’t talk about Jamaica without talking about their food, and without understanding their food you won’t understand Jamaicans. They’re all connected in a difficult and yet beautiful history, one that is definitely worth ditching the traditional tourist route to get acquainted with.
Choosing to take the Falmouth Food Tour was one of the best travel choices we’ve ever made. If you get the chance to visit, don’t hesitate! Then come back here and tell us all about the Jelly Coconut- seriously it just wasn’t for us 🙂