Chef Lelani Lewis tells the Caribbean colony story

“I always tell the story of the coconut,” says Lelani Lewis, 34. As a chef and entrepreneur, she devised Code Noir, a series of educational dinners on colonial history in the Caribbean, named after a 1685 French decree dealing with slaves. “Many people think that coconuts grow naturally in the Caribbean, but that is not the case. European ships transported them from Asia to America during colonial times. In shipwrecks off the south coast, coconuts fell into the sea and washed up on the Caribbean islands. That’s how they have become part of Caribbean cuisine. ”

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Michele Margot

Lewis learned it herself just a few years ago while researching Caribbean cuisine. “My father comes from Grenada, an island in the Caribbean with many sugar plantations. I have never realized how much colonialism has affected the kitchen. This results in delicious combinations of African, European, Asian and Caribbean influences. But the story is tragic. “

She organized Code Noir dinners in Amsterdam for a total of about 300 people. “It seemed like entertainment with tasty Caribbean food, storytelling and drinks, but I especially wanted to teach guests about Caribbean history.”

The menu was completely inspired by colonial history. “Meat and fish are not as important to Caribbean cuisine as many people think. For example, we served cassava bread with lime beans, corn salsa and sweet potato chips: these are native ingredients. Later followed an ‘African course’ with plantain, tomato stew and avocado mousse.And an Asian dish – baras with chickpeas, coconut yoghurt and tamarind – for the Europeans also brought contract workers from China and India.Guests were also served a hot drink with a piece of sugar next to it that read: ‘I am one of The reasons why 12 million Africans have been enslaved. drink me

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Michele Margot

Terrible industry

Anyone who knows the history of the colony will automatically look at sustainability differently, Lewis believes. “At that time, Europeans were building a terrible industry for the Western need for sugar. And we in the West are still not considering the ecological and human consequences of our massive consumption of quinoa or avocado.” In Latin America, for example, this leads to water shortages due to mass production and to shortages of these products for the residents.

The Europeans built a terrible industry for their sugar needs

Lewis does not want to wave a raised finger. “I can not tell anyone what they can and must not eat. I especially want to make people aware of what’s on their plate and how it got there, so hopefully they will make different choices. “

Code Noir wants to develop a teaching package for high schools. A crowdfunding campaign is currently underway for this.

This interview was featured in OneWorld Magazine in the spring of 2022.

Food activism: eating in the resistance movement

You can not have a revolution on an empty stomach. The Black Panthers already knew that, in the 1960s, distributing free breakfast to black schoolchildren in the United States. According to them, hunger was not an accident but a form of oppression. Around the same time, a food movement started in Europe and the United States that focused on sustainability, fair prices, and animal friendliness.

Different movements use food as a form of resistance. In the 80s in the US, you had the anti-capitalist network Food not Bombs. They prepared vegan and vegetarian meals of food that would be thrown out and distributed them during protests against imperialist wars. Since the 1990s, the international collective La Via Campesina (Spanish for ‘the peasantry’) has fought for what they call ‘food sovereignty’. It is the right of farmers and indigenous peoples around the world to decide for themselves what they produce and eat, without interference from foreign governments or corporations.

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