by Steve Desroches
During this long, long winter there was a day when anyone driving down Shank Painter Road noticed that the cute but long vacant cottage across from the laundromat suddenly was a festive green and yellow, particularly striking against the stubborn gray skies of the season. Being the national colors of Jamaica there was a general idea that the new business would have something to do with the Caribbean nation and the large Jamaican community in Provincetown. And indeed it does. Irie Eats, a Jamaican grocery and take-out restaurant brings a little bit of home to those from Jamaica in Provincetown as well as an opportunity for everyone else to learn more about the island nation via its culinary traditions.
Irie Eats, whose name comes from the Jamaican Patois for “all right”, captures the laid-back island vibe of owner Natessa Flowers’ native land. The walls are dotted with photos of Jamaican heroes and celebrities: Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff; the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, and track and field superstar Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce; and Norman Manly, the first premier of the country after independence from the United Kingdom. The shelves hold imported products from Jamaica including specialty sodas and packaged goods, and the aroma gives a hint to the spiced delicacies that are available in generous portions at affordable prices.
“Everything is done from scratch,” says Flowers. “It’s classic Caribbean food from where I’m from. So far it works and people like what we bring to the table.”
Irie Eats offers a menu that is authentically Jamaican. Breakfast options include Jamaican porridge and the country’s national dish, ackee and saltfish, while lunch selections include curried goat, marinated and stewed oxtail, and escovitch, a whole fried fish tossed with pickled vegetables. For those looking for a new experience in their own kitchens the pint-sized eatery also offers a variety of spices and products to add Jamaican flair to your own creations.
Hailing from Westmoreland Parish on the western side of Jamaica, Flowers’ new business, which she operates with her family, is not just a new dining option in town, but also a symbol of a healthy community here in Provincetown. Flowers first came to Provincetown as a 17-year-old girl in 1998 to work at the old Clem and Ursie’s on the H2B visa program, which is how many Jamaicans came to the outer Cape. Fourteen years later she is a new business owner, her own boss, and a permanent resident of the United States.
“I’m very happy here in Provincetown,” says Flowers, whose daughter is a student in the town’s school system. “Everybody here makes me feel welcome. People really make me feel like this is my home, which it is.”
With a national climate of persistent xenophobia and racism, as well as a nagging, quiet concern locally that the violent homophobia in Jamaica might find its way here, it appears that the long-standing dedication to doing the work it takes to not just tolerate, but appreciate differences is alive and well in Provincetown as the latest waves of immigrants in the town’s history are finding acceptance here. In turn, they are sharing their culture with the community-at-large as immigrant-owned businesses begin to appear, much in the same fashion as when Portuguese immigrants arrived in Provincetown. And with the steady flow of people coming in and out of Irie Eats, it’s clear there are many eager to sample a little of Jamaica at the Cape tip.
“I’ve tried my best to make sure that the public is pleased and comfortable,” says Flowers. “We’re friendly and everyone’s welcome.”
Irie Eats is located at 70 Shank Painter Rd., Provincetown. For more information call 508.487.0470.
by Steve Desroches