"The Birthing of Jamaican Cuisine" could have been the title of the trip "A Walk Along Harbour Street" that the Jamaican Historical Society hosted on January 28, 2018 along Harbour Street, Kingston.
Harbour Street and the Birthing of Jamaican Cuisine
Charmaine McKenzie gives the group an orientation.
At far right is a member of the Parade Garden's Benevolent Society.
GraceKennedy grew out of the
mercantile culture on Harbour Street
Kingston was a major seaboard for Western Atlantic trade and vessels from as far as Belize participated in harbour as a transhipment port.
The following point was not included on the tour, but in 1863, during the USA Civil War, a confederate ship was provisioned in Kingston Harbour, which led to the UK paying a fine for breaching the treaty that had ended the American War of Independence. This story is told on a plaque at Flamstead, St Andrew.
|Plaque at Flamstead outlining the breach by |
UK Navy of USA relations over provisions (food and water).
McKenzie highlighted that seamen wanted...needed...refreshment, and food at ports of call. Despite this demand, eateries on Harbour Street opened, closed and changed hands frequently. It seemed to have been difficult to be profitable in this business.
There were two main kinds of eateries at that time. The public table and the dining room. In both examples there was a table d'hote, a daily menu that was prepared for patrons. The European innovation of our modern restaurant had not yet arrived in Kingston.
A former dairy establishment that would have had a cold room
that may have offered storage to food shops
The menus of both were plain European style food, such as cuts of stewed meat and products made from wheat, but by the 1870s the records show that the item rich creole soups and stews was being celebrated and served in some establishments. Also, more local bakers had developed proficiency in the skill and were offering new products. Naturally, having an abundance of sugar cane products and locally grown spices the creole dishes gradually gained notice. These Jamaican creole dishes were a blend of imported food and food that was grown in Jamaica using European stovetop and oven cooking techniques. This was before the infusion of Middle Eastern and Asian food influences.
Ms McKenzie has viewed the manifests of ships that came into Kingston Harbour and noted that there a large volume of consumer goods constantly came into Kingston, much of it remained in Jamaica. Among the goods was a lot of food stuff, and a lot of ale, wine and spirits, and these would have been offered at the eateries on and around Harbour Street.
|A former cold storage operator on Harbour Street|
During this period, the eateries were owned by Europeans and some Middle-Easterners, but the cooks were Jamaicans, and increasingly, so were the patrons, many of whom were originally from rural areas.
McKenzie's walk pointed out the location of some public tables. Mrs McDougall ran respectable rooms and a public table where the Air Jamaica building now stands (72 Harbour Street). McDougall made the newspapers when she pulled her gun and successfully tackled spies who tried to destroy documents belonging to one of her house guests, a Haitian military general!
Gold Street power company
Public building going up on the former Myrtle Bank Hotel
property where there was a dining room for members only.
The residents of Parade Gardens, who were born in the mid 1960s, and also archaeologist Brooks, spoke about the fresh water well that is within the boundaries of what was the Myrtle Bank Hotel. That property will shortly be the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. The group hopes that the new development will preserve and celebrate this fresh water well that had continually served seamen from the Taino era until the early 1900s.
|The new home of GraceKennedy now under construction.|
The buildings may have gone, but the business of the harbour continues, and with that, refreshment for seamen.