Jamie Oliver’s Jerk Rice: Cultural Appropriation Or a Wrong Recipe?

A big furore has broken out over this 250-gram packet of rice. I love Jerk chicken and I love Jamaican rice and peas. If I am wrong on anything I write here please mention it in the comments and I will happily correct it. I have not tasted the rice yet but I am tempted to drop into my local supermarket to taste a controversial product. This seems to be as controversial as medical cannabis.

The first thing to ask is if there is any dish as Jerk Rice. The answer seems to be a big resounding no. Jerk Rice seems as real in Jamaica as Chicken Tikka Masala is in India.

The second thing is the ingredients. They seem similar to what is used in Jamaican rice and peas. They do not appear to resemble what is used in Jerk seasoning.

The third issue is whether it is culturally correct. This is the main issue. I spoke to a first generation Caribbean person. I do not know which island he hails from. He had not heard about the issue. He was horrified about Jerk rice. He then said; “That man is going to get into a whole lot of trouble.” I do believe that this was a culturally ignorant mistake just as there are lots of products that call themselves Keralan. I just look at the product and think that whoever came up with that name is an idiot who knows nothing about India. You would say Goan Vindaloo and not Goa Vindaloo. You would say Mangalorean Fish Curry. For food from Kerala, you would use Kerala Fish curry or would refer to a particular region like Malabar. I have not bought products that use Keralan not only because of the name. We have all those spices at home including Coconut milk and my wife is a really good cook. Apart from food from Kerala, she makes authentic Vindaloo. This is the real deal and not the rubbish you get from the shops. I am encouraging her to start a blog. She has promised me that she will as soon as she has taken pictures of enough recipes. Try out her Refreshing Coconut and Lemon Sorbet Recipe, It is really good.

The person/people who actually came up with the name should be held responsible. If it was a marketing company then I do hope Jamie gets his money back. Someone in a corporate office would have thought that they should make the product different from say Tilda’s Caribbean Beans and Rice so they called it Jerk Rice to make it sound enticing.

Making a huge political uproar about this is uncalled for. When a politician has an “outburst” then you have to question their motive. Does it benefit the people in any shape or form? There are people in this country who do not have enough to eat and issues are being raised about what a particular rice product is called? There must be an easier way to garner votes than picking on a celebrity chef? Will the next stop be the leader of a political party or Celebrity Big Brother?

Step 1) Follow the instructions to microwave the Jerk rice.

Step 2) Eat the Jerk Rice.

Step 3) If you like it then eat some more if not then don’t buy it again.

How long will the package containing the rice with the name Jerk Rice actually remain visible? Immediately after you put the rice in a plate and throw the packet away? Maybe it will be after you finish lunch or dinner. Maybe the following day because it was too much for you to finish in one sitting. The point is that the packet of Jerk Rice will end up in your trash can and the food will go through the complete digestive process.

Jamie Oliver has done a lot for food in this country. He campaigned to bring the sugar tax in. His 15-minute meal series would have encouraged people to actually make food instead of ordering from a takeaway. Then there are his money-saving meals. I cannot imagine that Jamie Oliver would have done something like this on purpose. So before people go and start boycotting products and making a big issue just ask yourself what do you want to gain out of the process. The beauty of food like language is that it is ever evolving. Change whether for the good or bad is the only sign of life. A lack of change is the first sign of death.

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