To get a better understanding of the cultural significance and legacy of global trades routes and its effect on Caribbean cuisine and culture, the chronology of Caribbean cuisine is broken down into four significant epochs and four corresponding courses. Listen below to hear Chef and Culinary Activist Lelani Lewis describe the concept of Code Noir, and how the different culinary influences that happened within each period are explored through the focal point of starch.
“...We thought that maybe it was going to be a very hard history to digest, in the sense that there is a lot to talk about. So when I was working with my collaborator Kiriko Mechanicus, we thought about using starches as a way of telling the narrative of the whole dinner.”
Welcome to Code Noir
Chickpeas. Mango. Lime. Coconut.
Served with Capo degli Onesti Pet Nat (Valdobbiadene, Italy) and Hibiscus syrup or sparkling water with Hibiscus syrup.
The evening begins with a welcome drink and a Channa to eat while artist Suzanne Bernhardt makes the very cassava bread the guests will eat for the first course. This is done over a live-fire on a traditional steel flat, while Suzanne discusses the indigenous process of making the cassava bread. As Suzanne cooks the cassava bread, visual artist Joana Velu gives a talk about her personal identity and cultural history with cassava in combination with its global journey. Guests will also be accompanied by the spoken word poetry of Rachel Rumai Diaz, who created poetry specifically for the project.
Cassava - Sweet potato - Lima Beans - Corn Salsa
Served with homemade Tepache, a 2% alcohol fermented pineapple drink with brown sugar.
“Cassava was a root vegetable indigenous to South America and the Caribbean, and it was directly available to the Indigenous people in the Caribbean. So they subsisted on the food of their land, and that included lots of vegetables.”
Cornmeal - Pumpkin - Garlic - Bulgur - Thyme oil - Smoked Aubergine
Served with Roland La Garde Cuvee Tradition (Bordeaux, France) or Royal Yunnan Black Tea (Yunnan Province, China).
“...Within Caribbean culture, maize was quite a revered crop-- very well respected, and used in religious ceremonies. I wanted to do an ironic version of something that Europeans saw as unfit for human consumption-- and now you’re eating it.”
Plantain - Tomato - Scotch Bonnet - Avocado - Peanuts
Served with Ginger Beer and 12-year Tres Hombres Rum (St. Phillip, Barbados) or Ginger Beer.
“On many of the plantations, the owners didn’t want to be bothered about looking after the slaves’ food. So they would give slaves “provisional grounds”, and they would allow them to grow their own crops-- like plantain-- on their land to feed them and to sustain themselves.”
Bara - Chickpeas - Tamarind - Coconut Yoghurt - Cucumber
Served with Oedipus Pilsner (Amsterdam, Netherlands) or Mango with Coconut Yoghurt.
“This course is kind of a nod to the indentured workers that come to the British colonies in the Caribbean. After the emancipation of slavery, they would have been the cheap labour that basically still worked on the sugarcane fields, looking at their interpretation of how the starch wheat is served.”
About Chef Lelani Lewis and the concept of Code Noir
Lelani Lewis, a chef, food stylist, and culinary activist, creates inspiring audience experiences with her innovative and vibrant approach to food. Growing up in South London with Grenadian and Irish heritage, Lelani experienced the diversity of food from a young age. She showcases this deep connection to culinary history from around the world in her work.
“Code Noir was created by me, and I have worked with different collaborators towards the ideation. It was something that was really important to talk about-- the nuances and the diversity of Caribbean cuisine-- and looking at the different continents’ influences within that culinary landscape. It was really important for me to have, and to get a bigger, wider platform for Caribbean food.”
For a deeper dive into Code Noir, check out Lelani’s upcoming workshop series of the same name, starting in November.