The Maroons: 1960’s Soul Group or Pioneers of Soul Food?

The Maroons: 1960’s Soul Group or Pioneers of Soul Food?

Music played a big role in my house when I was growing up. Still does. Especially around Christmas. But back when I was a young sprat in the 90’s and early 2000’s, the radio always filled the backyard or family room with old tunes. You know, back when music was art and had soul!

Whether it was Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra, the Supremes or the Temptations, or any classic rock group, their voices were always there to accompany our daily adventures. Like on the way to hockey. Before every game or practice my Mom would always test my music knowledge.

“Who’s this?” she’d say as she turned the volume knob counter-clockwise.

I’d take a minute to think and remember I got this one wrong last time. All because the lead singer’s voice sounds different on this particular track. Why? I don’t know, but you aren’t dreaming it.


A correct response was acknowledged with a healthy twist of the volume knob clockwise. My Mom would have a small dance party while I got amped up to bodycheck some kids. Good times.

It all brings me to a group you may not have heard of: The Maroons.

While their name sounds like a 1960’s soul group from Motown, with synchronized choreography to accommodate their velvet suits & smooth vocals, the Maroons engaged in a much different occupation. Guerrilla Warfare. Which, funnily enough, led to the creation of their own timeless classic. If you’ve ever tasted it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Jamaican Jerk seasoning.

Back in the 17th century, the Spanish and British brought African slaves over to the Caribbean to work their plantations. Unfortunately for the colonial powers, many of those slaves escaped and formed communities in the rough and rugged terrain of the interior islands they inhabited. Particularly in Jamaica. Those who escaped came to be known as The Maroons.

If there is one perk tied to being forced to work the land, it’s that you come to know the land. The Maroons used their knowledge of the terrain and their skills in agriculture and hunting to sustain themselves. But there was one problem they needed to solve.

You know how in movies, like the Hunger Games or the Lord of the Rings, there are always some fools who start a fire even when they know they’re being hunted? I mean I get it, at some point you gotta eat! The Maroons faced the same problem, but some people give into their desires, others adapt.

If you’ve ever wondered, “What are the origins of Jamaican Jerk?”, this is it. It was born out of a matter of life or death.

The Maroons needed to conceal their cooking fires and minimize smoke to avoid colonial forces and bounty hunters. Their answer was to slow-smoke their meals over low fires for a long period of time. A method of cooking & preservation known as Jerk. The marinade – a blend of Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and other spices – they created to tenderize and flavor their meats before smoking them, got the same name.

Once the group had their fill, there was nothing quite like a little payback.

While the Maroons aren’t responsible for establishing Jamaica as a sovereign nation – that came in 1962 – their resistance efforts against Spanish and British rule through the 17th and 18th centuries is still celebrated as part of Jamaica’s heritage and identity. So, not only did they create one of the tastiest spice blends around, the Maroons also helped establish the only commodity that tastes sweeter.

It’s quite the resume.


What does Jamaican Jerk seasoning taste like? Are there different types?

The flavor profile of Jamaican Jerk seasoning is about as dynamic as they come. It is spicy, tangy, & warm with sweet and earthy undertones. It’s all made possible by the ingredients that were unique to the Caribbean environment: Scotch Bonnet peppers & Allspice (aka Pimento). These two are the highlights of this blend while other spices like thyme, garlic, and ginger round the experience out.

Once the blend is thrown together, traditional jerk involves letting the meat marinate. If you were a Caribbean Freedom Fighter, then that meat was typically chicken or pork. When it was done marinating, it was smoked or grilled over pimento wood, the same tree that produces Allspice berries, and is responsible for imparting a smoky flavor.

That’s your traditional jerk. But nowadays there are all sorts of variations based on region and personal preference like adding brown sugar and citrus zest to add a sweet and acidic flair. It’s up to you to explore. Jerk seasoning is one of the most versatile blends and may just be king when it comes to fusion cooking – the art of crossing culinary cultures & traditions.


What can I use Jamaican Jerk seasoning on?

The simple answer is Everything. Here’s a few standard options to give a go.

Burgers & Sandwiches: You can mix jerk seasoning into homemade burger patties or marinade chicken breasts for grilled sandwiches.

Wings: Using jerk as a dry rub on wings is one of the best renditions I’ve ever tasted. One recipe I’d highly recommend is a version my sister created. First she applied jerk as a dry rub and cooked the wings through. Then she coated them in a homemade pineapple-jalapeno jelly and baked them so the jelly turned into a sort of crust. I’m not a wing connoisseur, but these are the bets wings I’ve ever had.

Caribbean-styled Pizza: Thinly sliced jerk chicken and pork are essential for creating a Caribbean-styled pizza.

Vegetables & Hashbrowns: You can create a quick marinade or sprinkle jerk seasoning onto your veggies before you throw them on the barbecue or try one of my favorite times to use jerk seasoning: hashbrowns. Sprinkling a little extra jerk on your eggs is a great way to kickstart a Saturday morning.

Jerk Steak Tacos & Jerk Salmon: These are two dishes I admittedly haven’t tried myself, but I see recipes for them and I honestly can’t see what could possibly go wrong. If you like the flavor, I’d recommend trying Jamaican Jerk seasoning on any of your favorite dishes.


Now, I don’t remember the exact moment or the exact lyrics, but at some point during my childhood my brother started to inject clever, often comical lyrics into familiar tunes like “Janie’s Got A Gun”. Since then, the practice caught on. Which brings me to think, if the Maroons were a 1960’s soul group, like the Temptations, their lyrics may have gone a little something like this …

With their backs to the crowd, dressed in rebel garb tattered with resistance, three back up singers snap their fingers and rock side to side in synchrony. The lead rebel takes the spotlight.

“I’ve got freedom on a cloudy day

When the Brits are outside, I’ve got to run away

I guess you’d say

What can make me fight another day?”

The backup singers spin toward the camera one at a time.

“My jerk!” “My jerk!” “My jerk!”

The lead rebel pulls out a freshly smoked chicken leg.

“Talkin’ bout my jerk”

The back up singers sing together.

“My jerk!”

Anyways … what are the three takeaways of this article?

One, the creation of Jamaican Jerk is attributed to freedom fighters. Two, it’s delicious and can be put on pretty much everything. And three, you may or may not be stuck with the least funny of Diana’s children. Though I won’t shy away from trying.

I’ll be back soon with a story about Gochugaru Chile Flakes. Until then.

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