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Caribbean cuisine is a true melting pot of cultural influences.

This food has been influenced by the culinary traditions of the various inhabitants throughout history, including the Carib and Arawak Indians, Spanish, English, African, French, Jewish, East Indian and Chinese. Caribbean cuisine has grown in popularity due to its rich and spicy flavours, and because many people of Caribbean descent have immigrated to other countries and long for their traditional food.

The food can be roughly divided into two major categories - the food from English-speaking islands and that from Spanish-speaking islands - although there are similarities between the two. The cuisine on Spanish-speaking islands leans more toward Latin American fare, with salsas, tortillas and tamales. But traditional Caribbean cuisine, which has influences from English speaking countries, refers to dishes like rice and peas (rice and beans on some islands), curries, jerks, fried dumplings, pepper pot soup, seafood, salt fish, roti and plantains. Recipes may differ slightly between islands, and names for some things (such as fried dumplings, which are called bakes, Johnny cakes and festivals) vary depending on the island.

From scotch bonnet peppers to jerk seasoning and vegetables such as okra and callaloo, many ingredients for Caribbean cuisine are available at West Indian or Chinese shops, and now, increasingly, at supermarkets. Stews, commonly prepared in a Dutch oven, are cooked slowly so the meat becomes very tender and the flavours have time to develop.

Beef, pork, chicken and goat are all popular meats for stews, usually served with rice and peas and a vegetable. Seafood such as shrimp, conch, lobster and a variety of fish are also very popular, either Escovitch (a spicy marinade) or fried. Common seasonings in Caribbean cuisine include fresh thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, pimento (also called allspice because it tastes like a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper) and curry mixes that include cumin, cinnamon, mustard, coriander, fenugreek, turmeric and anise. Coconut or coconut milk is added to savoury dishes, including rice and peas, on some islands, to provide a distinctive flavour.

Caribbean cuisine usually includes a main dish accompanied by rice and a number of side dishes. All the dishes are placed on the table at once for self service. One of the nicest island traditions is to have a leisurely late lunch or early supper on a Sunday afternoon, of a meat dish with all the fixings and a sweet dessert.

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