Hey, I’m Opal. Born in Bahrain. Of mixed heritage. Father from the UK, Mum from Belize. I was educated in the UK, Belize, and Malaysia and so travel has always been a huge part of my life experience and Belize such a huge influence. My Mum is one of 16 and she and my Kriol Gran and Aunties are amazing cooks who have always inspired me, both for their culinary skills and their strong personalities; believe me they let you know if they’re not happy! Family, cooking and sharing food together is just a huge part of our culture. It’s this passion and vigour for life that I think makes our food what it is. I have early memories of Gran in the kitchen of the family farm in Camalote, watching her prepare fried jack and avocado for breakfast and even now my Mum calls to say “come over and we’ll make some panades, or garnaches”. It’s a way of life for us, a part of reconnecting to our beloved Belize and of spending quality time together.
Other than family, food and my dogs, my greatest love continues to be travel, and I mean real travel. I’ve been all over Asia and North America (before the Donald), Central and South America and of course the motherland and one of my greatest passions for my partner and I, are epic road trips every year to southern Europe on our motorcycles. I love seeing the world, soaking up new cultures and trying new things, although being a strict vegetarian of 25 years, food choices can often be difficult. (I totally fell in love with Argentina but couldn’t stand any more crisp sandwiches!).
Although I may not be able to have certain foods, I like to recreate dishes that I’ve seen or sampled by experimenting, adapting and playing around with flavours (not always successfully I might add) but for me, it’s a challenge. I’m always learning and I’m always inspired to bring all of this to my sauces. It’s a taste of the motherland, a taste of the world and all made with love.
About Belizean food and culture...
Belize is a tiny country with an even smaller population basically the size of Wales with approximately 365,000 people and although bordered by Spanish speaking Central American countries it’s heart and soul is 100% Caribbean. Belize is a culinarily melting pot. From Mexico in the north. Guatemala in the west. Honduras in the south. The Garifuna nation of Dangriga just south of Belize city (direct descendants of West Africa.) And of course the Caribbean to the east. Kriol is still the overwhelming culture and language of Belize. We listen to punta, drink rum but what we like to do more than anything is eat. The staple diet of Belize is rice n beans. We have it every day, but our food takes influences from many different places
//Tamales, a mezo American dish descended from the Mayans is served all over Central America including Miami but ours are the best. Along with chaya, a wild spinach-like green grown all over Belize, stewed chicken, & meat pies.
//The Creole influence - dukunu (ground corn steamed in corn husks) rice n beans, stewed beans, fry jack, Jonny cake, flour tortillas. Staple foods in Belize.
//The Garifunas. Foods like, escabeche. An onion broth. Fish sere. A Fish stock cooked with coconut and green plantain. Split pea soup delicious served with white rice.
//The mestizo influence. Garnaches, salbutes, panades. Ceviche. All popular snacks in Belize. Also, pupusas, (el Salvador influences in Belize) a thick cornmeal flatbread stuffed with various fillings. Usually cheese, beans, chicken.
A brief history of Belize...
The homeland and the starting point along with neighboring Guatemala of the Mayan people. These were the indigenous people of the area we call Belize (formally British Honduras). These people were great engineers, mathematicians, all at a time when we Europeans were living in mud huts. Even now the Mayan calendar is day perfect.
When Europeans finally arrived to colonise (or destruct and enslave the peoples from Africa) the by-product was the creation of the Kriol of Belize. Thousands of Spanish speaking mestizo communities fleeing the cast wars of the Yucatan, and what we now call Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, further increasing the racial and cultural mix of Belize.
The British used Belize as a port for logging, although we did pretty good as pirates as well (seen pirates of the Caribbean? That will be us).
Finally, one of the greatest Belizeans; George Cable Price. He started a movement to gain independence from the British colonials resulting in Belize becoming independent Sept 81. The last of the colonies to do so in the Caribbean. Ok, it’s not the Caribbean but you know what I mean. Today Belize is a thriving multicultural nation.