“Mi love yuh like box food!”
The sentiment, though an ultimate expression of appreciation, is highly specific to Jamaicans. It is representative of something deeper than that, however. It shows just how much happiness resides in a 6 by 6 styrofoam (well, now made with various recyclable materials) box.
It is no secret that Jamaica harbours a culture of consuming hearty meals at any and every time of the day. While other countries revere deep-fried dishes able to be received in under ten minutes, a tightly packed homestyle restaurant on the corner of God knows where and what isn’t an odd sight to behold locally. Crowds will gather and grumble at the long wait to accommodate the slow-cooked meals but rejoice at the prize of freshly fried chicken swimming in curry gravy, steaming rice and peas, and perfectly seasoned pasta salad on the side.
Many have capitalized on this food phenomenon. The absence of professional opportunity brought on by the pandemic has forced the population to think creatively. Home chefs cooking occasionally at family gatherings bloomed into meals done to order, gaining loyal fans from persons unable or unwilling to cook at home. Especially with the mandates and health protocols currently keeping up in place, the largely street cuisine is now brought to us in the comfort of our own spaces.
It’s the accessibility and not only the finger-licking taste that makes the box food so popular. Anyone, regardless of social status or tax bracket can enjoy a serving and be satisfied with the many options available. There is a community found within the cramped spaces of a cook shop. Whether or not you choose to split a meal with a friend or partner or have it all to yourself, you are a part of a distinctive the distinctly Jamaican food culture.