Dominican American Food

Appears in

Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

By Andrew F. Smith

Published 2004

  • About

La bandera dominicana means the Dominican flag, but it also refers to a typical meal of beans and rice, meat, often chuletas (fried pork chops); salad; and medallions of unripe, green plantains known as tostones. In the United States or in the Dominican Republic, a request made for la bandera dominicana in restaurants or homes will always yield the same basic combination of filling, highly seasoned, mildly spiced dishes that are the foundation of the Dominican diet.

Dominican food comprises African, Spanish, and native or indigenous influences, a result of the island’s history of European conquest and enslavement. Within the context of Dominican foodways and culture, African influences and ancestry tend to be minimized while European and native influences are venerated, a situation reflecting the Dominican cultural tendency to reject African ancestry and the slave past. As such, there is a tendency to highlight both Spanish and indigenous influences in food and cooking by perhaps overstating the importance of the use of, say, olives in a particular dish or by repeatedly discussing the origins of barbecuing in the Caribbean, respectively, while glossing over ingredient preferences such as yams (var. Dioscorea rotundata or Dioscorea cayenensis), okra, or offal; cooking techniques such as long stewing and deep-frying; and the names of important traditional dishes like mangú and sancocho, which squarely place the country in the culinary diaspora of Africa, just as the Spanish language places it within Spain’s linguistic diaspora. The other Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, Cuba and Puerto Rico, share similar foodways, shaped as they are by similar histories of conquest, enslavement, and colonialism.