The Jamaican Box Lunch

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1ac62aa16fc86f21999b6cb89ce9f067A typical Jamaican lunch. Photo Credit: fooddiaries101.wordpress.com

“Sell me a rice and peas and fry chicken with curry gravy.”
“A curry goat and rice.”
“A jerk chicken and rice and peas.”
“A stew peas and rice.”
These are some of the daily options on the lunch menu of a Jamaican restaurant, tuck shop, road side shop etc. Delicious, sure, but so few options. Chicken, chicken, chicken, maybe fish, maybe goat. However, notice the common theme: rice. With the bounty of staples available to the Jamaican diet (breadfruit, yam, green bananas, plantains, sweet potato, white potato, coco, dasheen), cookshops trade our health for financial gain and serve bleached rice. Jamaicans have acquired the taste for rice because if more Jamaicans had an issue with this, surely more options would be introduced. I have reached my chicken and rice limits after having my final box (at least for now) yesterday.

Portion Distortion

  • 1 serving of rice=  1/2 cup
  • 1 serving of chicken, or meat in general= a deck of cards in area and thickness. That is, half a chicken breast, maybe a small thigh or chicken leg.
  • 1 serving of vegetables= a cup of shredded cabbage and carrot (the typical Jamaican salad)

If any Jamaican is ever served that, even in a small JM$300 lunch, a shouting match would erupt. The reason: how dare you serve a Jamaican the correct portion of food?! A small lunch should have 3 servings of rice, 2 servings of chicken (with curry gravy) and for side, either a garnish of shredded carrot and cabbage or a hefty serving of mayonnaise-drenched pasta. If we were active enough to require that much fuel, we would not have a worsening obesity crisis and high type 2 diabetes rate.

What can I do about it?

I’m not advocating for the boycott of cookshops, vegetarianism, veganism nor the cessation of rice consumption, especially not the latter. Rice is cheap and it “full belly” as we say, meaning that it is very filling and hence we get value for money. Personally I don’t like rice and would love to do away with it altogether, but my family nor budget can accommodate that change. Plus, I’d miss the Jamaican staple of rice and peas if away from it long enough.
I feel sluggish after my lunches in the week which doesn’t occur on weekends, so it must be because of the differences in food. I also go home noticeably larger around my middle at the end of the day. That’s not normal nor good for my long term health. That type of lunch is devoid of vitamins, minerals and fibre. What I’m receiving instead are saturated fats and more starch than my body can burn in a day.
I have a few ideas already on my alternatives, but of course this involves me carrying lunch on most days (again). This is something I’ve tried before in one of my phases, but hopefully this one develops into a lasting habit. And no not salads. A salad on its own isn’t a complete meal. I’ll let you know what I try and how I feel after I’ve made the change long enough to reap the benefits.
I tried eating healthier previously for the wrong reasons (yes there can be a wrong reason to work out, eat healthier etc.). Now, my reason is all coming from a place of self love- wanting to be the best me that I can be which involves avoiding the habits which predispose me to developing lifestyle illnesses and having enough energy to take me through each day. I owe this to myself.