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The Real Jerk: New Caribbean Cuisine

by Lily and Ed Pottinger

One of the great pleasures of a multicultural society is the abundance of international cuisines immigration brings. In Toronto, for example, one can easily find restaurants serving signature dishes from Ethiopia, Korea, Israel, and Thailand, to name just a few. In the early 1980s, Lily and Ed Pottinger added to this banquet when they immigrated from Jamaica and opened The Real Jerk, one of the city’s first “jerk” restaurants.

“Jerk” cooking, according to the Pottingers, is thought to have originated “with the ‘Maroons,’ West African slaves who escaped their Spanish masters to live in remote mountain areas of Jamaica.” Jerking is a method of slow-cooking meat that has been marinated in a purée of onions, spices, vinegar, and hot peppers. Recipes vary, though allspice and thyme are staples, as are Scotch bonnet peppers, which give “jerk” its deliciously lethal heat.

The Pottingers’ first cookbook, The Real Jerk is a celebration of the food they’ve been serving for almost 20 years. The book is divided into sections, such as sauces, soups, fish, side dishes, and desserts. Right off, the Pottingers reveal their jerk sauce recipe (they add ginger, nutmeg, and soy sauce), and while jerk is the foundation of the cuisine, there is much more on offer here.

Rundown sauce (made with coconut milk), mango and papaya salsa, shrimp creole, curried goat, steamed callaloo (a leafy green vegetable), fried plantain, rice and peas, pineapple turnovers – all these and more make The Real Jerk a treasure. The book closes with an excellent drinks section (spiced sorrel drink, homemade ginger beer) and a thorough glossary.