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Food, Dining, & Drinks in St. Lucia

Historic Diet

St. Lucia's historic diet was based on what the island naturally grew, but as a small island the diversity of foods was 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.

The animal life was less extensive on St. Lucia as there are few land animals that were regularly used as a food sources. This differed greatly from the surrounding waters though as there is a huge number of seafood in the area, including crab, barracudas, grouper, lobsters, and snapper.

Culinary Influences

The first influence to the diet of St. Lucia 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 diet of these earliest people to arrive was almost identical to what was available on the island in addition to what foods they brought as their diet was based on the local fruits and vegetables.

The next significant influence to the local diet of St. Lucia came with the Europeans. As the Europeans arrived they brought with them new spices, animals, fruits, and vegetables. The French were perhaps the most influence of these people in the early days as they introduced numerous changes, including the introduction of cattle, but also brought new cooking techniques to the island.

The British also greatly influenced the diet. Like the French, the British brought with them new spices, animals, fruits, and vegetables. The English were perhaps the most influence of these Europeans and today much of the country's diet is rooted in British cuisine.

Another 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, British, French, and Chinese foods are found in many places.

Staple Foods

Plantains: often a side dish or an ingredient in the main course
Rice: a common base to meals or simply a side dish

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Bouyon: fish or chicken with plantains, bananas, yams, and dumplings
Green Fig & Salt Fish: the national dish of green bananas with salt fish boiled and usually served for breakfast

Dining Etiquette

Dining rules in St. Lucia 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.

St. Lucia 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 St. Lucia, 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. Some restaurants will include a service charge in the bill, but if not, add up to 10-12% for good service.

Celebrations & Events

The greatest festival to try some local foods and drinks in St. Lucia is during Carnival, which takes place in July. This formerly pre-Lenten festival encourages the over-consumption of meats and alcohol as the country takes to the streets to listen to music, dance, drink, and eat. This is a great time to meet some locals and try local foods and drinks.

Drinks

St. Lucia will offer the visitor any non-alcoholic drinks they are used to from home, including teas, coffees, soft drinks, milk, and juices. Sadly, there is little variation from these standard drinks with the exception of "Golden Apples," which is a soft drink made from apples and sugar.

On the alcoholic side St. Lucia, like most of the Caribbean prefers rum and beer over other alcohols (although others are available). Rum is usually served as a mixed drink as hundreds of options exist. The favorite beers are numerous international brands along with the locally brewed Piton.

The tap water is generally safe to drink in St. Lucia, however confirm this with your hotel or guesthouse, particularly during hurricane season 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