Tehya just walked into my office as I was about to do this piece on the outstanding work Jaine Conley and Gulliver Johnson are doing down in Antigua and Barbuda to spread the culinary culture of the Caribbean, with their latest project “TableManners: A Culinary Review Of Hospitality in Antigua and Barbuda”. On opening the book, I could hear her mumble in a low voice “very festive”. Not sure where she was coming from until she said that the beautiful (bright) colors in the pictures are very festive and reminded her about when we docked in St John’s a few years ago. If you’ve had the pleasure of arriving in Antigua via the port at St John’s you’d know what she means… the brightly colored buildings that accentuate the true vibe of the Caribbean. Not to mention the artwork on display in shops, the crafts and brightly dressed tourists and locals.
I was first introduced to Janie about a year ago and over that time I’ve been lucky enough to get familiar with the work they’re doing to help promote the wonderful culture of the Caribbean and I’ve also been fortunate to receive not only a copy of their latest work, but some of the DVDs they’ve created as well. You can certainly check out more about what they’re doing at www.facebook.com/FoodandDrink.Antigua also www.facebook.com/FoodandDrink.Dominica as I’d like to concentrate on their latest publication a bit.
Early in the summer we met up with The Rhyming Chef (Philman George) fresh from his winter escape in Barbuda and at that time he gave me a copy of “TableManners: A Culinary Review Of Hospitality in Antigua and Barbuda”. Janie and Gulliver had sent a copy for me as they’re familiar with my passion for everything Caribbean and food… not in any particular order.
I’ll refer to the book as TableManners during this post as to shorten the name a bit (kinda long). After meeting with the Rhyming Chef back in the summer I recall Caron hurriedly opening the book out of it’s plastic protective casing and flipping through the pages, as we drove to get some doubles in Mississauga. Here’s the thing.. forgetting that I’m driving at 110km/hr and on one of the busiest highways in Canada, she kept trying to get my attention to view the amazing pictures.. every time she came across one that stood out (which means all) she would say.. check this. Not so good when you’re trying to focus on driving.
During that 20 minute drive she was already captivated by quite a few recipes in TableManners… I even overheard her say “I could make this” and “I’ll have to try this”. Yes, TableManners is one of those books that’s not just a cookbook but a captivating force which convinces people who normally don’t cook (fear she will screw up) that they “can”. We have a huge collection of cookbooks in our library and besides the one with Christmas cookies, I’ve never heard Caron react the same to any of them.
TableManners is a comprehensive look at the culinary industry in Antigua and Barbuda, with contributions from many of the islands top chefs and good coverage of the local “food” scene… from farm to table and festivals in-between. I especially like the sort of fusion recipes which shows a lot of creativity from some of the Caribbean’s leading chefs… a signal that Caribbean food is here! As a budding food writer I know how difficult it is to make our food look ‘pretty’ and with the job Janie and Gulliver did with TableManners, you’ll have to be prepared for the the food literally jumping out at you as you browse the pages.
I can only imagine how much work, effort and planning went into the development and publication of TableManners as it’s quality is reflected in it’s design, layout and content. A beautiful hard cover book which weighs about five pounds (no joke) and certainly a conversation piece when you have people over and they see it on your coffee table. The recipes are very simple to make and with the accompanying instructions and pictures of what the finished dish should look like, you won’t be intimidated. For those who love wine (still not my thing) you’ll love the recommended pairings. Something you don’t see too often with Caribbean publications.
Beyond the recipes, outstanding pictures and even the wine pairings, you get the feeling that you’re cooking a “friend’s” recipe when you use TableManners. You get to know a bit of the background of the chefs featured and it’s as if you know where the inspiration comes from for the recipe they present.So it feels like you’re cooking with a friend.
When I asked Janie and Gulliver where the inspiration and drive comes from, here’s what they had to say…
In terms of our backgrounds, we’re not from culinary backgrounds, but have a passion and love of the Caribbean and besides the sun and sea – Food & Drink comes pretty high up the list! We were both born in the UK to parents of mixed Caribbean heritage. We are both graduates. Gulliver Johnson came from a publishing, sales and recruitment work environment and I came from a design and archival environment. We saw a niche gap in the market here in Antigua & Barbuda almost eight years ago, where the hospitality industry was not really celebrated so we decided to make it shine. This year two new editions of our Food & Drink Guides will be published. One at the end of October for Dominica and the other in November for Antigua & Barbuda.
Enough of me raving what a gem Table Manners is and NO I’m not about to part with the most prized book I have in library. However I can tell you how you too can be captivated by what is probably the best culinary publication to come out of the Caribbean:
Copies of TableManners can be found in bookshops and hotel gift shops in Antigua. They may also be ordered from us via email [email protected] or by Paypal on our website. We have copies in Europe and North America so can ship anywhere worldwide. Shipping cost is $20USD. Details at this URL: http://www.foodanddrink-caribbean.com/orderguide.asp
BTW I won’t say much more, but you have to check out the recipes dedicated to “beverages”… the concoctions are out of this world. Think Caribbean vibe and colors captured in a fancy cocktail glass.
I’d like to personally thank Janie and Gulliver for such a dazzling look into the rich culinary culture of not only Antigua and Barbuda, but a true representation of the Caribbean. Caribbean cuisine can no longer be ignored and it’s about time that we’re known for much more that out outgoing personalities, stunning beaches and enchanting rums.