“Sell me two small fry chicken! One leg an’ thigh, curry gravy! One breas’ an’ wing, food an’ stew beef gravy! If you’ve never heard these or similar words then you’ve never ordered an authentic Jamaican lunch in an authentic Jamaican cook shop… and you have my sympathies. For the uninitiated, let me translate. What was being requested was two small fried chicken lunches, and instead of being accompanied with chicken gravy, one was to be smothered in curry chicken gravy and the other in stew beef gravy.
Fried Chicken with curry gravy?! You may be wondering what would motivate a person to place such a strange order. Well, the first thing you should know is that fried chicken, stew beef and curry goat/chicken are perennial lunch time favourites in any Jamaican restaurant/cook shop.
The second thing you should know is that Jamaicans firmly believe in maximising the value we get for every dollar. And we’re greedy.
So, when we order a fried chicken lunch we see no reason why shouldn’t get a little extra something with our lunch. Its not just gravy we’re after, its a little taste of the curry chicken we’re hoping for! In fact, a smart restaurant owner will make a point of adding a little extra something to every meal – maybe a fried dumpling (left over from breakfast) or a little fried plantain - just to satisfy that inescapable Jamaican desire to always get a little “brawta”.
The third thing you should know is that Jamaicans are indecisive. Particularly when it comes to food. Take a hungry labourer at lunch time, put him in front of a menu full of mouth-watering local dishes, ask him to choose one, and you will see the very personification of indecision. Ox-tail versus cow foot? Stew beef versus stew chicken? Rice an’ peas versus food (boiled ground provisions). The agony! A battlefield surgeon with a room full of dying soldiers and one shot of penicillin would have an easier time!
Finally, you should know that good, even great, food is available for a reasonable price all over Jamaica at lunch time. One can hardly be blamed for wanting to mix it up!