Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook

This cookbook (304 pages) was published in November of 2022 by Interlink Books. The book takes you to Jamaica. David read Motherland and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.

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A Jamaican Cookbook

Melissa Thompson

Melissa Thompson wants to help you load up your table with traditional Jamaican food — hello, Jerk Pork, Braised Oxtail, Ackee and Saltfish! And while you eat, she’s going to share the stories behind the recipes to also feed your mind.

Thompson grew up in England, eating homemade food cooked by her Jamaican father. She watched and learned and, eventually, out on her own, she recreated the dishes that represented home to her. And she got curious. How did the unlikely marriage of ackee and saltfish come to be? What makes jerk jerk?

So she wrote this book, what she calls ‘a cookbook with historical narrative,’ weaving Jamaican recipes with essays about the impact of slavery, colonization, and immigration on Jamaica’s cuisine. It’s worth mentioning that this beautiful book includes a map so you can connect flavor with place.

Thompson is a recipe developer and writes about food for The Guardian, Condé Nast, and the BBC — and she learned to cook Jamaican food far from the island, so she knows how to write recipes for the home cook. Instructions are clear, ingredients are easy to find, and the whole vibe of the book is consistent with Jamaica: inviting, colorful, chill. And delicious.

In addition to the classics you’d expect like jerk and goat curry, there are recipes from Thompson’s culinary imagination, like Ginger Geer Prawns, coated in a batter of ginger beer and cornflour, then fried crispy. There are Sticky Rum and Tamarind Wings that are just begging for a go-along bottle of cold Red Stripe beer — and Guinness Punch Pie, a cream pie made rich and dark with Guinness stout.

If you want to work Jamaican food into your regular rotation of recipes, crank up the reggae, crack open this book, and get cooking.

I grew up in Weymouth, a seaside resort in Dorset on England’s South Coast, where there were few Black people, let alone any Jamaican culture. Yet, in our kitchen at home, as soon as I scooped up mouthfuls of my dad’s famous ackee and saltfish with torn pieces of fried dumpling, or savoured a slice of caramel-sweet plantain, if I closed by eyes, I could imagine I was in Jamaica. Each bite rooted me further to the island, a place where — at the time — I had never been. — Melissa Thompson

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