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Jamaica - Food and Drink
Jamaican food is a mixture of Caribbean dishes with local dishes. Although Jamaican food gets a reputation for being spicy, local trends lean towards more versatile food variety. Some of the caribbean dishes that you'll see in other countries around the region are rice and peas (which is cooked with coconut milk) and patties (which are called empanadas in spanish speaking countries). The national dish is Ackee and saltfish, and MUST be tried by anyone visiting the island. It is made with the local fruit called Ackee, which looks like scrambled eggs, but has a unique taste of its own and dried codfish mixed with onions and tomatoes. You probably won't get a chance to try this food anywhere else, and if you really want to say that you did something uniquely Jamaican, then this is your chance. This is 100 times better than the tinned ackee. Another local food is called bammy, which was actually invented by the Arawak (Taino) Indians. It is a flat floury cassava pancake normally eaten during breakfast hours that kind of tastes like corn bread. There is also hard-dough bread (locally called hard do bread), which comes in both sliced and unsliced varieties. Try toasting it, for when it is toasted, it tastes better than most bread you'll ever eat. If you are looking for dishes with more meat in them, you can try the jerk flavoured foods. The most popular is jerk chicken, although jerk pork and jerk conch are also common. The jerk seasoning is a spice that is spread on the meat on the grill like barbeque sauce. Keep in mind that most Jamaicans eat their food well done, so expect the food to be a bit drier than you are accustomed to. There are also curries such as curried chicken and curried goat which are very popular in Jamaica.
You may even want to pick up a piece of sugar cane, slice off some pieces and suck on them.
It is recommended to sample the local fruit and vegetables. If unfamiliar with a particular fruit it can pay to ask a local about which parts can be eaten. Local and imported fruits are available from road-side vendors. If the fruit is to be eaten immediately the vendors can generally wash the fruit for you on request.
Finally, there is the category of "ital" food. Ital food is completely vegetarian and generally consists of a vegetable stew. Ital food is not generally on the printed menus in the upscale tourist restaurants and can only be found by going to smaller places (often just somebody's house.) Rastafarians are often vegetarians and eat (and serve) ital food.
There are many drinks in Jamaica. Standards such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola can be found, but if you want to drink local soda, you can try Bigga Cola, Champagne cola or grapefruit soda called "Ting" and also Ginger beer. Also, try any soda by Desnoes & Geddes, typically labelled as "D&G." "Cola champagne" and "pineapple" are popular flavors that you wont find anywhere else. Since the turn of the century, the majority of soft drinks are bottled in plastic instead of glass. You can try the local lager called Red Stripe (which is exported to many countries in the west, so there is a good chance you have already tasted it) and Dragon Stout. Most beers can be found in Jamaican pubs and hotels. A local hard drink is Jamaican Rum, which is made from sugar cane. It normally tends to be overproof and drunk with cola or fruit juice. DRINK WITH CAUTION! It's not designed for someone who is drinking for the first time. Since Jamaica was colonized by Britain, the drinking laws are 18 and over, but they don't generally enforce it as strictly as it would be in the Western countries (minus the ones with no drinking laws, of course)!
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