If, as the sociologist Pierre L. van den Berghe has suggested, cuisine is a significant expression of man's sociability, one might say that the seventeenth-century missionary Jean-Baptiste Labat was the single most social animal in the Caribbean islands in the 1690s. Although his primary responsibility on the island of Martinique was to serve the island's multiethnic population as a spiritual leader, le pèère Labat's memoirs chronicle the diverse culinary experiences of the missionary as he literally eats his way around the island, learning to prepare such delicacies as cocoa confit, roasted manatee, lizard en brochette, and parakeet en daube. Positing his unbridled interest in the culinary arts as a mark of his ““obedience”” to the duties assigned him as missionary, Labat's taxonomy of island delicacies and exotic tastes no doubt titillated the curiosity of his mainland readers while nevertheless grounding itself strongly in the values of order, authenticity, and industry so essential to Labat's apostolic mission. This article focuses on two ““buccaneer barbecues”” as examples of gastronomical experiences through which Labat was able to construct and negotiate new social, cultural, and symbolic meanings, exploring identity politics through the frame of the culinary arts in seventeenth-century Martinique.

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