October marks Creole Heritage Month, celebrating the Caribbean island’s distinctive blend of West Indian, African and French culture. Festivities include the annual Oktoberfest celebration featuring live music on October 7 in Samaans Park in Saint Lucia’s capital city, Castries. Jounen Kweyol, held on the last Sunday of October, celebrates the popular Caribbean dialect of the French language and heritage with Creole food, music, games and folklore.
“Saint Lucia’s diverse heritage and blended cultures have strongly influenced the island’s cuisine,” said Louis Lewis, Director of Tourism for the Saint Lucia Tourist Board. “Visitors can fulfill the desire to try authentic specialties such as cassava bread or enjoy delectable favorites such as chocolate.”
Visitors can celebrate the foodie culture year-round through authentic local eats from locally grown crops such as bananas and chocolate to the award-winning rums and beers produced right in Saint Lucia. For a true Saint Lucian experience for novices and connoisseurs alike, consider these on-island delights:
Cassava Bread: Made from a long, starchy root vegetable that is a historically prominent fixture in the diets of the Amerindian ancestors of Saint Lucia, this unleavened bread is be eaten throughout the day. Locals mix in coconut, cherries, raisin, and apple for a sweeter taste, or serve it sandwich-style with saltfish. Visitors can find the traditional staple at the main bakery "La Plas Casav/Kassav" outside of the town of Canaries or at various vendors throughout the island.
Green Bananas and Salt Fish: Known as the “official” dish of Saint Lucia, this specialty can be found in just about every restaurant island-wide. The dish combines bananas, a leading island export, and locally sourced vegetables with salt cod fish to make this Caribbean delight. Try it at different restaurants as each cook adds a signature twist.
Banana Ketchup: This popular condiment is a rich, thick take on traditional ketchup made from local bananas and a blend of select spices. As Saint Lucian bananas are some of the sweetest in the world, it has a savory taste with the added health benefits of potassium and complements any meal. One of the most popular brands, Baron Banana Ketchup contains no artificial color or additives and is available island-wide or found atop restaurant tables.
Saint Lucia Crab Back: A traditional seafood specialty, typically served as an appetizer to the main course, the Saint Lucia Crab Back is a simple delight most commonly prepared with local land crab meat, seasonings and herbs within a lemon garlic butter sauce. For an official taste test, the Crab Back can be found at a number of culinary hotspots including The Coal Pot, Windsong Restaurant and The Charthouse located in the northern part of Saint Lucia.
Piton Beer: This pilsner lager, named after the towering Pitons, is brewed with specially selected malt, hops, yeast and maize giving off a floral and hoppy aroma. Developed at the Windward & Leeward Brewery, Piton Beer is a favorite among locals and visitors to drink and sold at several locations throughout the Caribbean. Travelers can experience the brewing process for themselves on a scheduled tour.
Rum Tours: Those looking to get into the “Spirit” of Saint Lucia can partake in one of the many on-Island Rum Tours that take place dailyPremium brands like the award-winning Chairman's Reserve or Admiral Rodney can be sipped on the “Rhythm of Rum Tour” from the Saint Lucia Distillers or the “Rum Tasting and Distillery Tour” at Roseau Valley. A recommended cocktail is the Saint Lucia Rum Punch, a refreshing treat of fresh lime juice, Rum, fresh Orange or Pineapple juice and a dash of Angostura Bitters.
Chocolate Treats: One of the most popular crops on island is cocoa, a favorite treat among visitors of all ages. A chocolate experience can include simply sipping the popular Cocoa tea, a rich, local breakfast drink or more hands-on experience at Rabot Estate, Fond Doux Estate, Marquis Estate and the Morne Coubaril Estate where guest can learn how to make their own chocolate from picking a pod to pure chocolate stick or bar.
Castries Market: Named one of the top 10 markets in the world by National Geographic Magazine, Castries Market is the oldest market still in operation today. Located in the capital, it’s the largest meet-up of locals who gather to sell spices (star anise, mace, cinnamon); locally grown fruit and vegetables; condiments like hot-pepper sauce; locally made crafts like straw bags and wood carvings; or the fishermen’s catch. For a special treat join top executive chefs including Chef Craig Jones from The Cliff at Cap Restaurant at Cap Maison or Chef Mark Tan from Dasheene at Ladera for a shop-a-long followed by a cooking demonstration.
Anse La Raye Fish Fry: A weekly event held each Friday beginning at 8 pm in Anse la Ray where locals gather to feast with family, friends and visitors on the fresh catch of the day and other seafood favorites including lobster, conch, red snapper, crab and salt cod fritters. Vendor’s set-up booths with grills, drinks and souvenirs while tables and benches are laid out along the side of the street for a shared culinary experience.
Dennery Seafood Fiesta: The festival is held every Saturday beginning at 4 pm on the beach in the east coast fishing village of Dennery featuring local seafood delicacies with soca and zouk music playing in the background. This “beach party” is hosted by Dennery Seafood Vendors Association who cook with Creole recipes passed down through generations.
For more information about Saint Lucia, please visit http://stlucianow.com, call 1-800-4STLUCIA or become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SaintLuciaTouristBoard.