Take an A to Z grocery retailer tour with chef Winston Lewis and meals columnist Andrew Coppolino

As we wander the aisles at Kitchener’s A to Z Selection African and Caribbean Grocery, chef Winston Lewis stops to level out the thick stems of a succulent plant within the produce part.

“You name this aloe vera, however I name it sinkle bible,” says Lewis who then picks up an avocado. “And that is what we refer to easily as a pear on the island.”

The names may be completely different however the flavours are comparable, in accordance with Lewis as he describes the produce and meals of the West Indies and Jamaica, the place he was born.

Not too long ago, new Caribbean meals shops have opened in Waterloo Area, together with The Yam Vendor on Victoria Avenue Kitchener and Jamstyle in Preston Towne Centre, to call simply two.

As for Caribbean eating places, established anchors resembling Rainbow Caribbean and Ellison’s Bistro together with Massive Jerk Catering have led the way in which traditionally and offered some inspiration for newer venues resembling Kitchener’s J&Okay Delicacies Caribbean Grill and Bar and Irie Myrie’s and All Good Issues Caribbean Meals, Cafe and Catering in Cambridge.

On the nook of Water and Victoria streets in Kitchener, A to Z has appeared to fly underneath the radar, however the retailer has been flying the Guyanese flag for 16 years.  

Proprietor-operator Stan Hardayal says the shop is stocked with Guyanese components from a rustic that’s culturally near many Caribbean nations and their meals.

“Now we have a whole bunch of Caribbean meals together with HTB bread, yellow yams, candy yams, dried pigeon peas and guaymus fish,” Hardayal says. “We serve a variety of people that store right here, however now it is principally Africans.”

Jamaican patties present the welcome and first picture of Caribbean meals as you enter the A to Z retailer. (Andrew Coppolino/CBC)

Close to the entrance of the shop is a small warming oven loaded with in style Michedean Jamaican patties; one shopper is queued on the cashier with a big field of the frozen variations tucked underneath his arm.

It is for these causes that A to Z is a favorite buying vacation spot for Lewis who has cooked within the area for a few years and is at the moment with Bella Vista Catering.

On the subject of the number of meals we have now entry to, it is only a matter of attempting out what you are not conversant in, Lewis says.

Scotch bonnet peppers present a number of the zing to Caribbean delicacies. (Andrew Coppolino/CBC)

“A lot of African merchandise right here and primarily a whole lot of Caribbean merchandise and from the island of Jamaica itself,” says Lewis, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica.

“Everybody has completely different flavour profiles they like, however you could find the fundamentals you want so as to produce what you need out of your nation of origin.”

It is extra than simply uncooked components like spices, Irish moss and Scotch Bonnet scorching peppers, meats, grains and breads for his cooking: for Lewis, A to Z additionally feeds his creativeness and stirs recollections — even a typical herb resembling thyme has a sure weightiness past the perfume all of us acknowledge.

Kitchener, Ont. chef Winston Lewis with thyme on his fingers. (Bella Vista Catering)

“I bear in mind as a child strolling round on a Saturday, and also you knew individuals had been of their houses cooking with recent thyme, parsley and lemongrass all around the island. It jogs my memory of my grandparents while you walked as much as their property and so they had a pot of soup cooking,” Lewis mentioned.

Elsewhere within the retailer, he factors to a wide range of fruit and veggies that may inventory a Caribbean kitchen resembling eddoes, cassava, yams and plantains with various levels of ripeness from agency and inexperienced to mottled deep-brown and mushy: frying them can launch their sugars and so they brown fantastically, he says.

Whereas many individuals eat bananas inside a comparatively quick vary of ripeness, Lewis described how he makes use of inexperienced bananas.

“We steam or boil them. I can shave them, fry them or dry them within the oven and make a banana chip for an amuse-bouche,” he says.

Plantains with various levels of ripeness from agency and inexperienced to mottled deep-brown and mushy: which one to decide on is determined by the dish they’re destined for. (Andrew Coppolino/CBC)

A much less acquainted fruit for me was the soursop, a well-liked tropical fruit. It is concerning the dimension of a small melon, although it could weigh as much as three kilograms and has a spiky, leathery pores and skin. It might style like apple and strawberry with a touch of citrus and has a creamy texture just like a banana.

“We normally juice it and it is very tasty,” Lewis says. “I bear in mind having soursop juice on Sundays. It was a household custom.”

Because of West Indian meals purveyors in the neighborhood, Caribbean jerk, together with jerk rooster, has change into a well-liked dish at space Caribbean eating places. However Lewis says on the island, it might embody goat, a protein supply that’s eaten by greater than half the world’s inhabitants, although it’s much less acquainted in North America.

“Within the Caribbean, we choose goat to lamb. It is indigenous. There’s additionally oxtail, and on the island we use every part, from tip to tail,” Lewis says of Jamaican cookery. “The oxtail is a tasty meat, however it takes an extended, sluggish course of to cook dinner it. It is a stew course of.”

A world, or no less than a few hemisphere’s price, of packaged spices are on the cabinets and racks at A to Z grocery in Kitchener, Ont. (Andrew Coppolino/CBC)

A to Z has cabinets of rices, flours, legumes and different grains, notes Lewis, in addition to gourds and squashes that may be intimidating to inventory in your larder.

“Contemporary pumpkin and chayote are additionally right here. Folks do not know that you would be able to eat lots of this stuff uncooked in a salad,” says Lewis including a cook dinner’s culinary recommendation that encourages experimentation and an open thoughts.

“Give all this stuff a strive,” he says. “Combine and match flavours and determine what you want and do not like. However do not knock it earlier than you strive it.”

For extra tales concerning the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success tales throughout the Black neighborhood — try Being Black in Canada, a CBC undertaking Black Canadians could be pleased with. You may learn extra tales right here.