Home Cooking in the Global Village: Caribbean Food from Buccaneers to Ecotourists

Home Cooking in the Global Village: Caribbean Food from Buccaneers to Ecotourists

Home Cooking in the Global Village: Caribbean Food from Buccaneers to Ecotourists

Home Cooking in the Global Village: Caribbean Food from Buccaneers to Ecotourists


Winner of the Society for Economic Anthropology Annual Book Prize 2008.Belize, a tiny corner of the Caribbean wedged into Central America, has been a fast food nation since buccaneers and pirates first stole ashore. As early as the 1600s it was already caught in the great paradox of globalization: how can you stay local and relish your own home cooking, while tasting the delights of the global marketplace? Menus, recipes and bad colonial poetry combine with Wilk's sharp anthropological insight to give an important new perspective on the perils and problems of globalization.


As I write this I have on my desk a colorful bottle of a new “healthy infusion” drink sold in supermarkets in the USA, called Fuze. The flavor is Mojo Mango, and the 11 per cent juice includes orange, mango and passion fruit; it contains 100 mg each of guarana and ginseng extract.

I find it fascinating that this bottle is so cosmopolitan, a true multicultural brew, but it is so quiet about it. It does not flaunt its ancestry. Instead of telling us where these exotic juices and essences come from, the writing on the bottle is all about the powers of the ingredients to “increase energy levels” and “relieve stress and nervous tension.” Instead of telling us who made the ingredients, the bottle uses their foreign names to send a more general message that they are powerful because they come from far away places. Distance and mystery are part of the magic trapped in the bottle.

But I wanted to know the details. Getting them wasn't simple. Tracking down where all the ingredients came from took me several hours of research on the web, and dozens of Google searches; I was only partly successful. It was impossible to figure out where the crystalline fructose sweetener came from; it is made from high-fructose corn syrup and is sold in bulk as any other industrial chemical. The corn may have been grown in the USA, but it could also have come from Canada, Mexico or Europe, before going through a factory owned by Cargill or one of the other four companies that control corn refining in the USA.

The orange juice could have come from Florida, but Brazil is now the world's biggest producer. Peru, India and Ecuador make the most mango puree, though Mexico, Thailand and the Philippines also ship this sweet syrup. The people who make Fuze may not have known where it came from either. Passion-fruit juice is a big export from Ecuador, though they have had harvest problems lately, so it's possible that these few drops came from Brazil or Colombia. Uganda also exports the stuff, but mostly to Europe. Guarana is a caffeine-rich berry that grows in the Amazon, a favorite soft-drink flavoring in Brazil. That is probably where the 100 mg of extract in the bottle of Fuze came from.

I go back to the bottle itself, but it tells us only that the whole concoction was put together in Englewood, New Jersey, and suggests the ginseng came from Siberia. The ginseng might really have come from Siberia, but China and Korea . . .

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