“Sell me a rice and peas and fry chicken with curry gravy.”
“A curry goat and rice.”
“A jerk chicken and rice and peas.”
“A stew peas and rice.”
These are some of the daily options on the lunch menu of a Jamaican restaurant, tuck shop or corner shop.
Delicious, sure, but so few options. Chicken, chicken, chicken, maybe fish, maybe goat. However, notice the common theme: rice. With the bounty of staples available to the Jamaican diet (breadfruit, yam, green bananas, plantains, sweet potato, white potato, coco, dasheen), cookshops trade our health for financial gain and serve bleached rice. Jamaicans have acquired the taste for rice because if more Jamaicans had an issue with this, surely more options would be introduced. I have reached my chicken and rice limits after having my final box (at least for now) yesterday.
- 1 serving of rice= 1/2 cup
- 1 serving of chicken, or meat in general= a deck of cards in area and thickness. That is, half a chicken breast, maybe a small thigh or chicken leg.
- 1 serving of vegetables= a cup of shredded cabbage and carrot (the typical Jamaican salad)
If any Jamaican is ever served that, even in a small JM$300 lunch, a shouting match would erupt. The reason: how dare you serve a Jamaican the correct portion of food?! A small lunch should have 3 servings of rice, 2 servings of chicken (with curry gravy) and for side, either a garnish of shredded carrot and cabbage or a hefty serving of mayonnaise-drenched pasta. If we were active enough to require that much fuel, we would not have a worsening obesity crisis and high type 2 diabetes rate.
What can I do about it?
I’m not advocating for the boycott of cookshops, vegetarianism, veganism nor the cessation of rice consumption, especially not the latter. Rice is cheap and it “full belly” as we say, meaning that it is very filling and hence we get value for money. Personally I don’t like rice and would love to do away with it altogether, but my family nor budget can accommodate that change. Plus, I’d miss the Jamaican staple of rice and peas if away from it long enough.
I feel sluggish after my lunches in the week which doesn’t occur on weekends, so it must be because of the differences in food. I also go home noticeably larger around my middle at the end of the day. That’s not normal nor good for my long term health. That type of lunch is devoid of vitamins, minerals and fibre. What I’m receiving instead are saturated fats and more starch than my body can burn in a day.
I have a few ideas already on my alternatives, but of course this involves me carrying lunch on most days (again). This is something I’ve tried before in one of my phases, but hopefully this one develops into a lasting habit. And no not salads. A salad on its own isn’t a complete meal. I’ll let you know what I try and how I feel after I’ve made the change long enough to reap the benefits.
I tried eating healthier previously for the wrong reasons (yes there can be a wrong reason to work out, eat healthier etc.). Now, my reason is all coming from a place of self love- wanting to be the best me that I can be which involves avoiding the habits which predispose me to developing lifestyle illnesses and having enough energy to take me through each day. I owe this to myself.
4 thoughts on “The Jamaican Box Lunch”
Rice- thats another interesting topic. I read recently, that it’s expensive to import rice. I’m asking myself, why Jamaicans are so rice-addicted (are they?) You have so many other options to add a sidedish like breadfruit, festival, dumplings and so on. But than I asked me, if it is possible to harvest f.i.enough breadfruit to supply the locals and visitors of the island. May be Jamaica is to small and the acreage are even smaller to supply, that the island could provide itself. Did you hear that the “The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) has committed $50 million to provide crop care and productivity support for this year’s implementation of the National Irish Potato Programme, which will cost $1.6 billion.” ? Or that it’s planned, to export more breadfruit? I find that all interesting.
Oh and by the way: Good luck with your “carrying lunch” concept 😉 Greetings- Doro
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I didn’t know about the Irish potato programme but that sounds great. We should have one for sweet potatoes too and other ground provisions, but I assume irish potatoes were specifically chosen because a lot of our consumption comes from imported ones. Breadfruits now, well the trees grow rather large. A lot of people have a breadfruit tree in their yard though and often times they stay there and rot 😦 It would be great to consume more breadfruit and less rice though. The breadfruit export will likely be targeted to the Jamaican diaspora since it’s common for Jamaicans going abroad to carry up roast breadfruits for their relatives & friends who complain they can’t find them overseas.
Funnily enough, Jamaica doesn’t grow rice. We import most of our rice from Guyana, a mainland Caribbean country, since we have a special arrangement with them. In terms of as starch though, rice is the cheapest to purchase locally besides wheat flour or cornmeal so it’s the mainstay as carbohydrate source in poor families. Unless of course they have a farm or access to one where they can get foodstuff for free. Thus, while rice isn’t the healthiest, it’s too ingrained (no pun intended 😅) in our culture now to leave. Haha, sadly I haven’t been keeping up that habit too well of taking lunch since about September but I’ve certainly been having less rice & chicken. 🙂
I understand the “struggle” of carrying lunch everyday, especially a healthy one. In many cases, to get a filling amount, it may be more expensive, along with facilitating more microwave use and the sometimes-dreaded grocery shopping/cooking task. I’ve yet to master this habit, it’s inconsistent, but when it does happen you definitely feel a positive difference. Wish you all the best.
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True. Plus I hate carrying extra luggage. I’m going to experiment with a few things to see if I can settle on a routine which doesn’t take too much time to prepare at home, and shop around for a food “thermos” which keeps food warm for several hours so I don’t have to microwave. If I find something decent which works I’ll share :). But box food has gotta go and I don’t plan on exceeding my weekly budget 😅 so we’ll see
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