|Place of origin||Grenada|
|Main ingredients||Breadfruit, salted meat or chicken, coconut milk, spices|
Overview[edit | edit source]
Oil down is a stew of breadfruit, salted meat, chicken, dumplings, callaloo, and other vegetables, all stewed in coconut milk, herbs, and spices to make a hearty and flavorful one-pot meal. It is called oil down because the coconut milk simmers down and releases its rich flavored oil into the pot. All of the liquid is cooked down (dried out), hence the name oil down.
Grenadians might also use the term oil down in reference to a traditional neighborhood party where they serve the oil down stew cooked over an open fire. Traditionally it is the men who cook the oil down at such parties. Oil down is also very popular in local restaurants.
Unlike most stews, in which the ingredients get a thorough mixing during the cooking process, a pot of oil down is "packed." Exactly how to "pack the pot" is a matter of taste and tradition, as well as a subject of occasional controversy. Everyone has a different order and method, but usually the breadfruit and meat goes on the bottom, most of the vegetables in the middle, and the callaloo leaves and dumplings on top. The ingredients simmer in situ.
Traditionally, the dish is finished when all the liquid has been absorbed, which usually takes at least an hour, depending on the size of (the) pot.
Oil Down is not unique to Grenada, as it is also very popular in nearby Trinidad and Tobago, which shares a long history of cultural influences from the Spice Isle. There are differences in how each island makes its oil down, however, with Grenadians preferring dasheen, dumplings, and saffron while Trinis tend toward a simpler dish without dumplings, but with hot peppers. There are different versions of this stew in other Caribbean countries as well. In Guyana they make mettagee, or mettem, and in Jamaica they have a seafood version called run down.
Historical significance[edit | edit source]
On the small Caribbean island of Grenada, where locals have to deal with limited freshwater, seasonal rainfall, and natural disasters, and where the majority of the food is imported from the US and neighboring islands, oil down is one dish that Grenadians can call their own.
Although many things in Grenada have been influenced by the Europeans over the years, oil down remains something purely Grenadian. No imported spices or seasonings, no choice cuts of meat here. This one-pot meal is made up of local vegetables, “provisions” (the local term for starchy root vegetables, tubers, and bananas that fill you up), salted meat, and aromatic seasoning — all easily accessible, affordable ingredients in Grenada.
Nearly every ingredient in this hearty stew has a unique origin and story to tell. For example, callaloo, and its root, dasheen, are indigenous to the Caribbean and were cultivated by Grenada's earliest Amerindian inhabitants.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Culture of Grenada
- List of stews
- Stew peas – a similar Jamaican stew
- Run down - a similar Jamaican stew
References[edit | edit source]
- Ken Albala, Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia: Four Volumes, ABC-CLIO, 1400 pages, 2011. ISBN 978-0-313-37626-9
- Jeanne Jacob, Michael Ashkenazi. The World Cookbook for Students, Volume 1, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007 - 296 pages, ISBN 0313334544
- "Oil down - National Dish of Grenada". The Official Website of the Government of Grenada. 5 Mar 2010. Retrieved 17 Apr 2019.
- "Oil Down: The National Dish of Grenada". TravelBlog. 5 Sep 2009. Retrieved 17 Apr 2019.
- Cynthia Nelson (18 Feb 2017). "Oil Down Grenada's national dish". The Scene from StaBroek News.
- Scott Neuman (11 Sep 2016). "This Hearty Stew Is A One-Pot Lesson In Grenada's History". The Salt from NPR. Retrieved 17 Apr 2019.
- Becca (28 Feb 2014). "Oil Down: Grenada's National Dish". Meat Loves Salt. Retrieved 17 Apr 2019.
- Laura Dowrich-Phillips (23 Nov 2018). "Who does it best? Oil Down". Loop.
- Cynthia Nelson (10 May 2016). "Guyana Gold: An appreciation of our cuisine". Stabroek News.
- Cynthia Nelson (6 Jan 2018). "Resolve to eat Guyana". Stabroek News.
- Jamaica - Montego Bay, Port Antonio and Ocho Rios - John Bigley - Google Books p. (unlisted)
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- West Indian kitchen gardens: A historical perspective with current insights from Grenada (United Nations University website)
- The Secrets of the Caribbean Cuisine - Facts & Reviews (WPB Magazine)
- 12 Grenadian Foods Every Island Transplant Should Try (Caribbean Life | St. George's University)
- Grenada Today On-line Archived Web Site (Grenada Today, Ltd., Grenada, 2001)
- Top 10 foods to try in the Caribbean (BBC Good Food)
- West Indian Cuisine and recipes
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