We write a lot about food here at Uncommon Caribbean. We love posting recipes for our favorite dishes like callaloo, pholourie, codfish acra, saltfish buljol, and more. Of course, sometimes we just like to talk about the special place West Indian foods like roti occupies in our hearts as born and bred islanders. So, if you haven’t noticed: food is a big part of the culture in the Caribbean. And the best way to bring that culture into your kitchen (other than regularly reading this site, of course) is to pick up a copy of The Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook.
Accept no substitutes. Do not pass “GO.” (As our dad likes to say.) This is the only West Indian cookbook you may ever need.
You see, there are an awful lot of influences that come into play with traditional food in the Caribbean, and while this book certainly comes at the subject from an unapologetic Trinbagonian viewpoint, it does an authentically effortless job of presenting all the Creole, East Indian, Chinese, Spanish, English, Syrian Lebanese (Middle Eastern) and other influences that blend together into the wide array of delights found across the whole of the Antilles. It even presents dishes unique to islands other than Trinidad and Tobago.
It takes a long heritage to produce an essential piece of West Indian culture like this cookbook, and the Naparima Girls’ High School certainly has one. The school was originally founded in 1912 with just 22 students and one teacher named Miss Edith Doyle at a time when there wasn’t much interest in educating little girls in the Caribbean. Nevertheless, the school persevered and grew. In just four years, it had outgrown its original one-room location prompting a move to a new four-classroom wooden structure where the school still stands to this day. As time went on, dorms were built, a concrete building was erected, annexes added, residences opened to welcome new teachers, labs opened for budding young scientists and the school prospered.
With such a long history of Trinidadian women and girls living so closely together, they were bound to amass expertise in all manner of West Indian culinary delights, so it’s no wonder the school’s cookbook has become such an essential staple of Caribbean kitchens everywhere. You may not be able to find the classic Diamond Jubilee edition from 1987 pictured above which graces my kitchen in Brooklyn, but you can still pick up a newer edition for yourself.
UPDATE: In response to the difficulty several readers have encountered in trying to purchase the Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook online, we’ve acquired a supply of the updated and revised edition! Get yours here: