A Taste Of Empire – Anguilla

Anguilla - FlagAnguilla (/æŋˈɡwɪlə/ ang-gwill-ə) is a Anguilla - ArmsBritish Overseas Territory in the Caribbean. It is one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles.

The British Empire - MapThe territory consists of the main island of Anguilla itself, 16 miles (26 km) long by 3 miles (5 km) wide, the capital of which is The Valley, together with a number of much smaller islands and cays with no permanent population. The total land area of the territory is 35 square miles (90 km2) with a population of approximately 15,000.

Anguilla 4

Curried Goat

Anguilla was first settled by Amerindian tribes who migrated from South America.

The earliest Native American artefacts found on Anguilla have been dated to around 1300 BC, and remains of settlements date from 600 AD.

Some sources claim that Columbus sighted the island in 1493, while others state that the island was first discovered by the French in 1564/5.

anguillaMap2Anguilla was first colonised by English settlers from Saint Kitts, beginning in 1650.

The French temporarily took over the island in 1666 but under the Treaty of Breda it was returned to English control.

In this early colonial period Anguilla sometimes served as a place of refuge.

A Major John Scott who visited in September 1667 wrote of leaving the island “in good condition” and noted that in July 1668 “200 or 300 people fled thither in time of war.”

Anguilla 3It seems likely that some of these early Europeans brought enslaved Africans with them and historians confirm that African slaves lived in the region in the early 17th century. By 1672 a slave depot existed on the island of Nevis, serving the Leeward Islands.

The precise time of African arrival in Anguilla is difficult to place but archival Anguilla-aerial_view_western_portionevidence indicates a substantial African presence on the island by 1683.

During the early colonial period, Anguilla was administered by the British through Antigua, but in 1824 it was placed under the administrative control of nearby Saint Kitts.

Anguilla 2

Grilled Grouper

In 1967, Britain granted Saint Kitts and Nevis full internal autonomy.

Following two brief rebellions (1967 and 1969) headed by Ronald Webster, and a brief period as a self-declared independent republic, British authority was fully restored in July 1971, and in 1980 Anguilla was finally allowed to secede from Saint Kitts and Nevis to become a separate British Crown colony

The cuisine of Anguilla is influenced by native Caribbean, African, Spanish, French and English cuisines.

Salt Cod in a Lisbon Market.

Salt Cod in the marketplace

Salt cod is a staple food while seafood such as prawns, shrimp, crab, spiny lobster, conch, mahi-mahi, red snapper, marlin and grouper are abundant.

Due to the limited size of the island the main meats tend to be poultry, pork, goat (the most common) and mutton, while beef is imported.

ARS_breadfruit49

Breadfruit

Indeed, a significant amount of the island’s produce is imported due to limited land suitable for agriculture, much of the soil being sandy and infertile.

Nevertheless, Anguillan produce includes tomatoes, peppers, limes and other citrus fruits, onion, garlic, squash, pigeon peas and callalloo, a leaf green native to Africa similar to a sort of spinach – kale – collard greens crossover.

Anguilla-Villas_Lobsters

Lotsa Lobsters!

Starch foods include rice and potatoes that are locally-grown or imported, including yams, sweet potatoes and breadfruit.

Potatoes are also consumed, although less frequently. Flour and cornmeal are also widely used.

Local dishes include barbecue and jerk style meats while fritters are made with conch, coconut, fruit, allspice and banana.

Anguilla 9Clam cakes and crab cakes are also popular varieties of fritter while dumplings too are common, either pan fried or boiled in a soup. The fried version is usually served with breakfast codfish as a side.

The soups tend toward the bisque style and are made with lobster, conch and other local seafoods.

There has been a lot of fuss in this country (UK) in recent years concerning fusion cuisine, involving the combination (or fusion) of various forms of ethnic or national dishes to create a ‘new food’ (imagine a very rude word that you find incredibly offensive !)

photo_right_flagGranny Robertson would have positively railed against such pompous, self-serving aggrandisement!

Fusion cuisine existed in the Caribbean regions long before today’s prattish, under experienced and heavily over-sold TV ‘chef’s’ came into being! (I still maintain that a cook is a cook and that a chef is merely an ill-educated ego who sees ‘being in charge’ as the most important part of the job!)

But it was not over-paid egos that created fusion cuisine, it was the melting pot of the Indies, of Chinese and indigenous Caribbean influences, with the additions from African slave labour and any number of European émigrés and their cultures.

Therein lies the true nature of fusion cuisine!

Anguilla

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