(For Grandma Daphne)


Sweet and chewy plantain (pronounced plant-IN, not plan-tane)

Spicy, curry goat

Savory, rich oxtail

Dark, dense rum cake

Dumplings floating in ham bone soup, so good and chewy you fish them out all out of the pot, hoping your cousins don’t notice

A cuisine crafted in the collision and combination of West Africa, the Spice Islands, and British rule

All on one small island

Formed from the resilience and creativity of a people

who could create with the scraps what the master wouldn’t eat

Making the tail of an ox delicious

But I’m going to tell you about my grandma’s rice and peas

Prepared by a woman who moved from Christiana, Jamaica to Jamaica, Queens, New York


2 year old daughter in tow, 4 more on the way

This full-time nurse, found coconuts in a city where palm trees could not grow,

hand grinding them to make the coconut milk

to make the rice smooth and sweet

Gathering the crowd around steaming pots

Passed it down to me as

I stood on a stool mimicking her motions

Later calling her,

North Carolina direct to Tamarac, Florida,

so her words could guide me like her hands once did

Always adapting,

keeping the flavors true while modifying the recipes to for my grandfather’s body,

Papa Zoom was plagued by heart disease and diabetes,

from a life of too much sugar,

as in too many long hot days in sugar cane fields,

sweat not sweet

the harvest of which he saw

in the lives of his children and grandchildren


My grandma’s rice and peas,

Is the staple that sustains our people

We may be a small island,

but like the pigeon peas scattered throughout the rice,

you can find us everywhere

And like the scotch bonnet pepper you stick in the pot,

our culture has permeated and infused the world

with a complex, spicy, fruity flavor and

a rhythm of resistance that reverberates across the globe

The sweet, sweet songs of subversion that propel me to


Stir it up,

Little darling,

Stir it up


And well nourished I will do just that

(Copyright Alison Kibbe 2011)

Copyright Alison Hall Kibbe 2014