Fiery Cuisines Part 22 – Guadeloupe

Fiery Cuisines Part 22 – Guadeloupe

Andrew’s Essential Fiery Food Facts that a Pyro-Gourmaniac needs to Know

Part 28

Fiery Cuisines Part 22…… Guadeloupe.

I was first exposed to the food of the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, while working in the UK in 1988. While running the Devon Towers Hotel I was fortunate enough to work with a waitress Guislaine, a French Caribbean national. The food was Exotic, hot and very different to the Jamaican foods I had tasted…. so my love for this Cuisine grew from there….

The use of Caribbean Chillies is a favourite for me, as anyone that knows me, knows I love Scotch Bonnets and Habaneros

Guadeloupe is an archipelago of eight inhabited islands in the Lesser Antilles, between the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. The two principal islands, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, are separated by a channel, the Rivière Salée. The capital, Basse-Terre, is on the western wing; the commercial centre, Pointe-á-Pitre, is on the eastern wing. The other islands, known as “dependencies,” are Marie-Galante, la Désirade, Petite-Terre which is uninhabited, and the archipelago Les Saintes, along with Saint Barthélemy and the northern half of Saint Martin to the north. The total area is 1,705 square kilometres. Grande-Terre, essentially limestone, consists of plateaus, plains, and hills. Basse-Terre is volcanic with high mountains and a tropical rain forest. The climate is humid and tropical with a dry season from January to May and a wet season from June to December.

When Christopher Columbus and his crew sighted Guadeloupe in 1493, they wanted to claim it for Spain. The inhabitants there, the Carib Indians, called the island Karukera, which means “Island of Beautiful Waters”. Spain made two attempts to seize the island but was repulsed both times by the Caribs. He named the island ‘Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura,’ after the image of the Virgin Mary venerated at the Spanish monastery of Villuercas, Spain. They finally gave up their claim to the island in 1604.

French entrepreneurs landed on the south-eastern shores of Basse-Terre in 1635 and slaughtered the Carib Indians. They then set about planting sugar cane and within a decade built the first sugar mill. A slave-based plantation was already well established by the time the French annexed the island.

The British invaded Guadeloupe and placed an inordinate amount of pressure on the French who eventually traded their claims in Canada for the return of Guadeloupe with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. France was weak and chaotic during the French Revolution so Britain again invaded Guadeloupe in 1794. The French sent a contingent of soldiers led by Victor Hughes, a black nationalist, who freed and armed Guadeloupean slaves. Hughes and his group killed over three hundred Royalists, some of whom were plantation owners. The U.S. got involved and declared that Hughes attacked American ships, so the U.S. declared war on France. Napoleon Bonaparte, ruler of France sent a general to Guadeloupe to put down the rebellion, restore order and re-institute slavery.

Guadeloupe was the most prosperous island in the French West Indies, and the British continued to covet it making incursions and occupying it between 1810 and 1816. The Treaty of Vienna in 1816

restored sovereignty to France in 1816, and it has remained a French colony ever since then. Slavery was finally abolished in 1848, which was in large measure due to a campaign led by Victor Schoelcher, a French politician. The planters in Guadeloupe decided to import labourers for Pondicherry, a French colony in India, to work on the sugar cane plantations.

Its cuisine represents a unique mix with European, East Indian and African influences. Many people came in this country and brought all kind of ingredients and special methods of cooking and preparing the dishes. In 1635 the French took possession over this beautiful country and introduced to the natives the costume of growing cattle. Over the next centuries due to the prosperity of the Island, the British people tried to conquer it several times and steal it from the French. They failed to accomplish that. Beside the French and British influences Guadeloupe cuisine adopted many dishes and ingredients from the Indian people and the Arabs. Varied types of peppers and other spices typically Indian are being used nowadays in the Guadeloupe cuisine. A distinctive part of this country cuisine is represented by the Creole cuisine.

Creole cuisine is at the crossroads between the different influences the spices of Africa, France, Spain and India have swirled and melded over the centuries and baked in the island sun to an olfactory patina that is Creole. The two basic ingredients are fish and fruit. Indian food in the Caribbean tastes Creole Indian; the food in Chinese restaurants has a Creole accent; French food has an earthy and spicy lilt to it. Take a trip to the market to try out all the exotic fruits you may have never even seen before. And don’t forget, for aperitifs (or at any other time of day), ti-punch, the national drink is definitely the way to go

Nowhere in the islands is the mix richer than in Guadeloupe. It smells of chickens dripping their fat into charcoal fires, of acid star apples and dark, mysteriously spiced blood sausages.

Special recipes that have been passed from generation to generation are made with fresh seafood and poultry and can be sometimes so hot and spicy that hardly can one handle them. Local Guadeloupe cuisine is also famous for the great usage of fresh fruits and seafood. Using these healthy and natural ingredients great and tasteful salads, appetizers and dessert are made. Other specialties made with seafood and served in this country include smoked fish, shellfish, stuffed land crabs. All these dishes are seasoned with chilli sauces or curry dishes. In the Caribbean, Guadeloupe cuisine is recognized as being one of the most spectacular due to the great number of recipes and dishes existing here but mostly due to the exquisite taste and flavours that of the food.

While subtle differences in character set these islands apart, the local food culture unites them. A mélange of traditional Creole and classic French cooking with a dash of African and Indian spice, Guadeloupe’s cuisine is both local and exotic, rustic and refined. It’s as easy to feast on made-to-order street food as it is to linger for hours over a meticulously prepared multi-course lunch.

Chillies are omnipresent in Creole cuisine, they accompany all dishes. Particularly hot, if not one of the hotter in the world Creole Chillies are used to clean and flavour food. Of the Capsicum chinense Variety and a relative of the Habanero and Scotch Bonnet. They are used for cooking, but are usually removed before serving. On the table they are presented on a saucer. You stick your fork in it and then move it around the plate to flavour it. You should be careful with these Chillies as too much will make the food incendiary!

Finally, for food lovers, exotic fruit are on the menu for dessert: in syrup, candies, jams or compotes. Without forgetting doucellettes, philibots, lotchios, cratchés, the famous blanc-manger coco (coconut flavoured with vanilla), the classic banana flambée with rum or the tourment d’amour ( a Savoy cake with coconut creme).

Offering authentic flavours in their simplest forms, the streets reveal yet another chapter in Guadeloupe’s culinary story. Direct from mom-and-pop sellers to eagerly waiting locals and tourists, portable foods like grilled conch in a cone, hand-churned coconut sorbet, and, of course, the tourment d’amour make for affordable, spontaneous snacking at festivals, by the beach, or simply in town squares. Sold from takeout windows alongside French crepes, the uniquely Guadeloupian bokit—a pita-like sandwich made from risen bread that’s been deep-fried and folded over fillings like Cheese, Egg, vegetables, meat, and tuna is the West Indian answer to guilty-pleasure fast food.

Down to earth and comforting, typical Creole dishes centre on the land and surrounding sea, seamlessly blending fresh-caught fish with island-grown fruits and vegetables. Many of the open-air restaurants, begin their meals with accras (deep-fried Cod fritters) with garlicky “dog” sauce and then graduate to hearty mains like Conch fricassee or Goat curry served alongside Plantains, Rice, and Beans. These all goes down better with traditional fruity and potent rum cocktails.

Most of the preparation methods existing in the Guadeloupe cuisine are being borrowed from their neighbours and adjusted to this country own traditional dishes. While there are no specific or unique preparation methods for Guadeloupe cooking, we should point out that attention to detail is important in the Guadeloupe cuisine. Using the right amount of spices for example is essential – either for spicing up the taste or for colouring the dish. The diversity of vegetables and cereals found in Guadeloupe is also noticed in the delicious dishes belonging to their cuisine. The visual attractiveness of the dish is also important, and a balance between colours and proportion differentiates. Each traditional dish has a special cooking method, which is more or less general in all of Guadeloupe’s regions. Meat is one of the main elements of most Guadeloupe dishes and cured and smoked hams are often parts of delicious dishes