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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Grenada

Historic Diet

Grenada's historic diet was based on what the island naturally grew, but as a small island the diversity of foods is somewhat limited, although larger than one would think for an island of its size. Most of the island's oldest foods actually arrived with the earliest settlers though; these native and early imports included plantains, pineapples, sweet potatoes, maize (corn), cassava (yucca), bananas, coconuts, beans, and numerous other foods. As a small island the land life that was viable food options was sparse and few local animals truly provided food for the people. This differed greatly from the surrounding waters though as there is a huge number of seafood in the area, including angelfish, barracudas, grouper, lobsters, snapper, and crabs.

Culinary Influences

The first influence to the diet of Grenada came with the first people to arrive who brought with them new foods and cultivated these foods. This led to the introduction of new ingredients as well as organized agriculture.

The first great influence to the local diet came with the Europeans. As the Europeans arrived they brought with them new spices, animals, fruits, and vegetables. The English and French were the most influence of these people in the early days and they introduced numerous foods and animals, including cattle, but also brought cooking techniques and numerous dishes with them to Grenada. Today much of the country's diet is based on British and French cuisine.

The next great influence came with the arrival of the African slaves and the movement of people throughout the Caribbean. This growth in transportation and communication led to Caribbean spices growing in numbers on the island as the slaves encouraged slave owners to use simple and cheap ingredients to feed them; this led to a heavier use of rice. Maize, beans, and potatoes were also important foods for the people of the island from this point forward.

In the past century or so, international ethnic foods have arrived in larger numbers. Today a huge number of ethnic foods can be found in grocery stores and restaurants as American, French, Italian, and Chinese foods are found in many places.

Staple Foods

Plantains: often a side dish or an ingredient in the main course
Potatoes: not as common as rice, but rather served as a replacement to rice
Rice: a common base to meals or simply a side dish

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Olla de San Anton: stew of lima beans, pig's ear, bacon, and blood sausage
Olla Podrida: stew of lamb, pork, veal, chicken, and sausage with vegetables and dried fruits
Oil Down: the national dish is breadfruit, coconut milk, dumplings, and cod, pork, or another meat cooked with numerous spices

Dining Etiquette

Dining rules in Grenada are relaxed, very relaxed so there's little need to worry about making a wrong move. However, it is still nice to understand how the local people dine and how to behave in a restaurant or the home of a local. The first rule is that dining with friends or family is meant as a social occasion so take your time and get to know your fellow diners; meals can take hours and you should not make plans that force you to leave early.

Grenada is in the Caribbean and that means there is no hurry; arriving a few minutes late is never an issue, but dressing too casually can be. Try to dress in a relaxed, but slightly more formal manner than you otherwise would in Grenada, although a tie or dress is a bit overboard on almost all occasions.

If eating in a local's home you will most likely be shown a seat, but don't sit until invited to do so. Meals may begin with drinks or just the food and as the guest you may be invited to take your food first. Try to eat in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) and keep your hands within sight by resting your wrists on the edge of the table. Again, your host will likely not be offended if you eat in the incorrect manner, but do your best to follow their lead.

As you finish eating, place your fork and knife together on your plate to indicate you have finished. If eating in a restaurant, call the server over by making eye contact; don't wave or call his/her name. Most restaurants will include a service charge of 10% in the bill; whether they do or don't, a tip of about 15% total is appropriate for good service.

Celebrations & Events

Grenada has its share of holidays and nearly all of the major holidays are tied to religion. The grandest of these holidays is Carnival, which takes place in August. Like Carnival in other countries (which usually takes place before Lent), this celebration is filled with music, dancing, and lots of partying. Carnival food traditions are limited as everyone eats out, but no particular foods are associated with the holiday. However, if you want to try the local alcoholic beverages, there is no shortage during Carnival.

If you're more interested in eating and less interested in drinking, a better time to visit is just after Easter during the St. Mark Festival, which takes place in Victoria and is truly centered around the food. Only local foods are promoted as the more local and distinct the more celebrated they are. The celebration is also filled with drinking in the evenings, but again only local beers and rums are allowed.

If you want to skip the alcohol entirely the Festival de San Cecilio on February 2 is consumed with food competitions with a hint of religion as it is the celebration of the island's patron saint.

Another religious celebration is Fisherman's Birthday, which takes place in June in honor of St. Peter & St. Paul. Not surprisingly this event centers around the consumption of fish as the boats and nets are blessed to bring in a large catch.

Drinks

Grenada offers the visitor all the world's most commonly consumed beverages including coffee, soft drinks, and milk, but they are better known for their juices, teas, and some local drinks. Tea is often served with cocoa beans and milk, making it an odd mix between English-styled tea and hot chocolate. For the true cultural experience though, go with mauby, which is made from the bark of a local tree, then sweetened and strained.

Rum is popular in Grenada, which is not a surprise given its location in the Caribbean. Rum is usually mixed with juices and other beverages with "rum punch" being one of the more popular mixes. Beers are also common and the local beer, "Carib" is among the more popular local brews. Wines and other alcoholic beverages are available although rarely locally produced and not too popular.

The tap water is generally safe to drink in Grenada, however confirm this with your hotel or guesthouse, particularly during hurricane season or after a heavy rain as the water can be contaminated. If you do drink the water, many people may have trouble adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to if you are not from the region.

This page was last updated: September, 2012