Today is World Food Day. It seems just the right day to tell you about a very interesting new venture: a cookbook/storybook in the making that tells the stories behind Caribbean restaurants, bars and food places across the United Kingdom. There are, of course, solidly established West Indian communities in areas such as Harlesden, North West London; Brixton, south of the river; and all the big cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol. Caribbean food is inevitably there. This book explores the people, the history, the culture that make these places to enjoy the art of eating so uniquely varied.
So, an enterprising young man named Riaz Phillips has launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign for a new book in the making – Belly Full: Caribbean Food in the UK. You can find the link here. – with a nice (yummy) video. It’s going to be published by Tezeta Press – a small independent publishers run by Phillips and Zimbabwean Zandile Nkomo. Words and the 500 photographs in this gorgeous, colorful book are by Phillips.
26-year-old Riaz has an interesting background. He’s a native north Londoner, who has lived in China. On his return to the UK he studied International Relations at my old college – Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford University (in my day, it was a women’s college!) in a town where there has always been a Caribbean population, too.
Riaz doesn’t think Caribbean and African food gets enough recognition – it needs more love! Over the last year he has travelled across the UK, meeting dozens of people and listening to their stories about their personal immigrant experience, how they started their establishments – and, of course, talking about food. The result of these conversations make for a fascinating behind-the-scenes exploration of how these thriving businesses got started, and of the contribution they now make to their own community and beyond.
Whenever my husband and I go to England, my son and stepson (both Jamaican/British) always take us to a Jamaican eating place. It seems funny, since we live in the land of curry goat and festival! Last time it was Mango Room in Camden Town, north London, near where we lived. It was lively, interesting and the food was – well, different. Jamaican food with a sophisticated touch. Mango Room is in this book, along with many others. These are not just fancy restaurants though – they are people’s lives, families, experiences all rolled up into an establishment that each has something unique to offer.
And you know – Caribbean people take their food seriously. An event without food in Jamaica will fall flat. And people are generous: wherever possible, and certainly on special occasions, there must be a table just groaning with food. If you go to the country, people will give you bananas, coconuts to take back (although we are a bit jealous about mangoes!) I remember visiting Jamaica one Christmas, before I came to live here. I had never seen so much amazing food in my life!
You will find over 60 locations across the UK in this book. It is already completed, but being self-published would really benefit from some funding. Please see if you can support it.
Let’s celebrate Caribbean culture and our brothers and sisters overseas. And if you are in the UK, don’t forget to visit Hawkeyes for breakfast, Buzzrocks for lunch, Wings and Ting for dinner – and don’t forget to drop by Old Trafford Bakery for a nice fresh loaf of bread!
Find Tezeta Press on Facebook and on Instagram at belly.full. They are also on Twitter @Tezeta.Press.