With most mega events canceled this year, producers of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festivals are taking their celebration online with a virtual event to mark Oct. 25, National Jamaican Jerk Day. The event will be streamed at 7 p.m. on VP Records’ YouTube channel.
The virtual event will feature live performances, cultural presentations and interactive cooking segments. There will be cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs, including Hugh “Chef Irie” Sinclair. Viewers are encouraged to participate by creating their own dishes as they celebrate Jerk Day.
It also features a cooking showdown with six chefs — from Canada, New York, Atlanta and Baltimore — in three contests where two chefs at a time create their dishes and are judged based on ingredients and presentation.
Still, the historical National Jamaican Jerk Day celebration will include so much more than jerk cuisine. It will also showcase Jamaica’s deep cultural traditions.
The virtual event will highlight the history of Nanny, Jamaica’s only female national hero. Nanny, a Maroon, was a military strategist and a master of guerilla warfare.
Maroons were descendants of Africans in the Americas who escaped and formed settlements away from slavery. They are revered for creating the authentic underground method of jerking meat.
Cultural coordinator Bridget Edwards said it was important for Maroons to cook their food underground so the smoke would not give away their location.
“It was ingenious how they cooked their food underground, communicated by drumming and camouflaged themselves in the bush to keep safe and to defeat the British colonizers,” Edwards said.