The Definitive Guide to Jamaican Table Manners

todays_menuAs any true gentleman/lady will tell you, good table manners are an essential part of fluid and enjoyable social interaction. What actually constitutes good table manners, however, will vary widely from place to place. In an effort to identify what is considered good dining etiquette in Jamaica, recently conducted a month-long undercover study at dozens of Jamaican restaurants, eateries and cookshops. Having carefully analysed and collated the data collected we now present to you what we learnt about how one should conduct oneself when dining in Jamaica:

1. On entering the restaurant/cookshop loudly announce your presence by shouting “Serve here!”

2. Do not wait to be seated. Simply plop yourself down at the nearest available table.

3. Grill your waiter on the menu items and their accompaniments. E.g.“Is local goat or imported mutton? Mi only eat local rammy yuh know.”
“What yuh serve wid di tripe? Rice an peas? Plain rice? Food?
“ Is nuff food yuh get?”
“So I can get curry goat gravy wid di the fry chicken?”
“Is why yuh face screw up so? Yuh work inna restaurant, so mi know seh yuh nuh hungry.”

4. Place the most complicated order you can devise. e.g. “Beg yuh a large food. Having. Half an’ half ox tail an’ fry chicken. Rice an’ peas an’ ‘food’. No boil yam. Banana, sweet potato an’ dasheen only. No gravy on di rice. Stew beef gravy on di fry chicken. Likkle raw veg on di side. Don’t mek the rice touch the meat or the ‘food’ touch the gravy. An' hurry up wid it!”

5. Despite the complexity of the order and the surly tone in which it was placed you should pull your waiter aside and quietly whisper to him that you would appreciate “a likkle taste of the cow foot as brawta”.

6. When your order is brought to you, hold your hand a few inches above the plate to test the warmth of your meal. Complain noisily that the food “cold like Alaska”. Insist that it be reheated.

7. When the reheated food is brought back to your table complain that it does not have nearly enough pepper.

8. Insist that a bottle of Grace Hot Sauce, Pickapeppa Sauce or a side plate with some sliced up bird pepper be brought immediately.

9. Apply pepper to food liberally.

10. Complain that there’s not enough gravy on your food. Enquire whether you are expected to “choke to death on di food?” Send plate away for additional gravy.

11. Complain that you wanted the additional gravy on the meat, not the rice. Send it back again.

12. Cease all conversation as you begin to eat.

13. Pretend not to hear as one of your dining companions mutters a few words of grace before eating.

14. Once silence has been achieved, attack your food like you would a hostile and deadly combatant.

15. Hiss your teeth and shoot dirty looks at persons who attempt to make polite conversation about sports/weather/government’s latest tax package during the meal.

16. As you assault your meal, the only sounds should be that off smacking lips, knives and forks clanking on plates and the occasional “Beg yuh pass di peppa”

17. Mix meat, rice, ground provisions and gravy into a steaming, soggy mountain in the middle of your plate.

18. Heap enormous, steaming mouthfuls of food into your gaping maw.

19. As your bredrin enters the restaurant, greet him at the top of your voice, ensuring that every single person in the establishment is alerted to his presence, and with hands outstretched exclaim: “Weh yuh a seh Money! Long time!”

20. Once the pleasantries have been concluded return immediately to your meal.

21. Pause chewing only briefly to wash down gigantic mouthfuls of victuals with a sip of your lemonade/coconut water/red stripe.

22. Apply more pepper to food.

23. Clean your plate thoroughly. Place any errant grains of rice in your mouth using your fingers.

24. Chew chicken bones into a fine grainy pulp vaguely resembling caviar. Leave in small mounds at the side of your plate.

25. Suck ox-tail bones noisily until all traces of meat and gravy have been removed therefrom.

26. Request an additional boiled dumpling/slice of yam/scoop of rice to “soak up di res’ ah di gravy”

27. Lick fingers vigorously to remove all traces of gravy.

28. Request a rock cake, slice of sweet potato pudding or slice of cornmeal pudding for dessert.

29. It appears from our research that belching exhibits appreciation for the meal. As such, please feel free to loudly and frequently demonstrate that appreciation.

30. If your waitress is female and even remotely attractive, feel free to invent terms of endearment for her (e.g. “Fatty”, “Love Sponge”, “Suga belly”). Ask her repeatedly for her telephone number and address.

31. Request a tooth-pick. Suck teeth while busily digging away at your gums with said toothpick. Ensure tooth-pick remains in your mouth for at least an hour but it is quite acceptable for it to remain for the rest of the day.”

32. Loosen belt. Rub stomach with pleasure. Lean back in your chair.

33. Agree with your companions that “di food here really eat good”.

34. Compare the high quality of the cooking to that of your late, dearly-beloved Grandmother Iris.

35. Disguise your contentment as you complain bitterly and loudly about the excessive bill.

36. Resolutely maintain that a better-tasting meal can be had at the restaurant across the road for half the price.

37. Tip sparingly, if at all, as you slowly leave establishment.