Day 25: The Blue Mountains

Jamaica entered the European consciousness in 1494, when the then newly minted world traveler, Christopher Columbus, claimed the Island for Spain.  This Caribbean island soon became a central hub for the slave, rum-sugarcane, tobacco trade triangle between Europe, the Caribbean, and the United States.  Because of the trade routes, Jamaica is home to a West African home of spirtism commonly known as voodoo.  In response to hundreds of years of exploitative practices the religion of Rastifarianism was developed in the 1930's.  This religion focuses on racial empowerment and venerates the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selasse I, as a kind of second return of Christ.  It is in this diverse context, with Afro-Eurasian trade routes that the unique Jamaican food was born. 

Cool Runnings is the hub of Jamaican activity in Houston.  The looming towers of the Cao Dai Temple (the largest temple in North America representing this native Vietnamese religion) betray the diversity of this southwest Houston neighborhood.

Cool Runnings

Although Jamaica has recently been a global focus at the Olympics in Rio on account of the record smashing Usain Bolt (not to mention Thompson, Pryce, Blake, and a host of others.), they became a global sensation when they became the first tropical country to enter the Winter Olympics in 1988.  This epic journey was memorialized in the hit movie Cool Runnings, which is the namesake for this weeks restaurant.  Cool Runnings is a local hub for Jamaican activity in Houston.  Family run and quickly expanding into the food truck scene, this restaurant is located in an über diverse neighborhood in southwest Houston.  Overshadowing the restaurant is the Cao Dai Temple, which is a nascent unity religious movement from Vietnam--but that is another story for another day.  They have been frequented by many of the famous Jamaican olympians, musicians, and movie stars, and it is not without reason, they serve delicious authentic Jamaican fare in a walk-up store front which has a local "on the go" feel to it (if that isn't your thing, don't worry, just walk through to the dining room).

Clockwise starting from the bottom left: Ox tails, Stewed Chicken, and Jerk Chicken

Although not the national dish--Ackee and Saltfish is--Jerk Chicken is probably what Jamaica is most known for.  This dish is believed to have African roots.  It is a spicy chicken recipe that is marinated and then grilled.

Ox Tails are a staple Jamaican food and are incorporated into a number of dishes around the world including soul food in the USA, and the broth of Pho in Vietnam.  This popular Jamaican dish is a way to reclaim part of the Cow/Ox that most chefs don't know what to do with.  Oxtail is browned and then stewed with a savory sauce and served with rice and beans.

Don't forget to checkout the national drinks of Jamaica, rum or ginger beer.

James Bond

Ian Fleming (the author of the James Bond series) was infatuated with Jamaica.  Jamaica is well known for the Blue Mountains, and the Blue Mountain coffee.  Fleming always had Bond drink his personal coffee of choice, Blue Mountain Coffee.  More than Bond's drinking choices, Fleming had a house built on the island which he affectionately named Golden Eye and served as the local from which he wrote ten of his novels.