The mountains of Jamaica rise up out of the turquoise-blue Caribbean. From those jaggy peaks, rolling hills — covered in lush green rainforests — taper down to soft-sand beaches along the coast.
It makes perfect sense that the first Jamaican inhabitants — the Taíno from South America — gave the island a name that means ‘Land of Wood and Water.’ It’s all as if paradise is beckoning you to come, sit, relax.
Music floats on the air in both the rhythmic lilt of reggae music and Jamaican patois, a creole language that combines elements of English, Spanish, and African languages.
Yes, there are pirates in Jamaica’s past, along with Spanish conquistadors, British interlopers, and a history of slavery. But Jamaica is now a cultural superpower, sharing its feel-good music (with a message), colorful cuisine, star athletes, and multicultural gifts with the world.
In this episode, we explore the so-literal-they’re-poetic names of some Jamaican towns, sing along to our favorite Bob Marley tunes, dig into the history of jerk chicken, and spy on Ian Fleming’s Jamaican estate. Then we recommend five great books that to us to Jamaica on the page, including two delicious cookbooks, a YA adventure with a side of social justice, a sweet family saga, a short story collection that will punch you in the feelings, and a painfully beautiful novel about an (extra)ordinary Jamaican woman named Adamine.
Read the full transcript of Jamaica: Let’s Get Together and Feel All Right.
Groove to some Bob Marley while you dig into these links. (Or listen to Mel’s favorite compilation: the soundtrack to the film The Harder They Come.
From Smithsonian: What Became of the Taíno?
The Bob Marley Museum in Kingston is well reviewed and gives you a peek inside his house and recording studio.
Are you hungry? Here are 11 Local Dishes and Drink to Try in Jamaica and 21 Must Try Traditional Jamaican Food & Drinks. Here’s everything you need to know about Blue Mountain coffee and where to drink it in Jamaica.
Watching the YouTube Channel Morris Time Cooking is like attending a super-fun Jamaican cooking class.
Two classics: Jerk Chicken and Callaloo:
Statement 2: There’s a magical writing desk in a beautiful villa in Jamaica. Here’s the Wikipedia page about the Goldeneye estate. The official website for Goldeneye is the stuff of which vacation dreams are made. The Fleming Villa is even more posh.
Here’s the version of ‘Every Breath You Take’ in a minor key. Some say that the stalker in this song hears the original version, and everybody else hears this version:
Here’s a first-person blog account of making black cake from Emily Dickinson’s recipe from a manuscript at Harvard’s Houghton Library.
Melissa Thompson is the author of Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook. Here’s an interview in which she explains why you can’t talk about Jamaican food without talking about slavery.
Science! The ‘hot pockets’ we talked about in the show are called Jamaican patties. Wikipedia here — recipe here:
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