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Cultures of Jamaica and Panama unite for food series

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When two cultures meet at the dinner table you get cultural fusion.

A local food series is looking into the historic relationship between Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean Panamanian culture and celebrating those similarities with a culinary feast at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church on Aug. 19. “Scattered Jamaica: Panama” is a cultural series created by Brooklyn-based foodies, the Reggae Chefs, who look for the likeness of Jamaica and other countries around the world. With Panama becoming the permanent home to many immigrants from English-speaking Caribbean countries, the event will be a chance for both groups to see the parallels, said the founder of the series.

“We travel to as much destinations in the world and learn as much as possible to compare the Caribbean and other cultures in the world,” said Peter Ivey. “Last time we traveled to New Orleans in search of history of reggae in the world, and now we traveled to learn about Afro–Caribbeans in Panama.”

Ivey traveled to the central American country last October and spent a week learning about the history of Afro-Caribbean descendants who left their homes to work on the Panama Canal, and the legacy they left behind.

“I wanted to see to see that canal for myself and meet with cultural leaders who were descendants of canal diggers — I was also interested in what Pamana did to pay homage to Caribbean history and visited the only museum dedicated to diggers.”

In his visit he says he felt an extremely familiar vibe he did not feel in his other travels, said Ivey.

“I did feel right home. Out of all our destinations we visited for far, Panama felt more like home,” he said. “When I was in Ghana the connection I had was more historical, but in Panama I felt a present day connection. The minute people stopped speaking Spanish and spoke English — they sounded just like patois.”

He adds that the aspect of cuisine is particularly eye-opening because the consumption of ackee among Afro-Caribbean Panamanians, is similar to Jamaicans even though ackee is not originally from Panama. And dishes like cou-cou, which is originates from Barbados is also eaten.

Cooking for guest is DJ Chef Elias, a Panamanian chef who will cook some specialities, showcasing a blend of foods, according to Ivey.

And the event will be a fund-raiser to end food insecurity in Panama and Jamaica and the Reggae Chefs mission to assist that.

“Food of course is a big issue worldwide and on the agenda of the world food program is to tackle problem of food which is a world mandate to world by 2030,” said Ivey. “We’re looking to throw our hats in that fight and use Scattered as way to give back and use the proceeds from this event to fund a menu to use to feed the hungry.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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