Pearline “Miss Pearl” Murray is the queen bee at her nephew Norman’s Jamaican café in Little Haiti. She helps in the kitchen, waits tables and is head of operations.
Everyone knows her from Clive’s I in Wynwood, which closed in March because the building owner had development plans. Miss Pearl was fine with that, knowing she could join Norman at the place he had opened eight years ago on Northwest Second Avenue.
Pearl, also known as “Auntie,” is from the small town of Moneague in St. Ann Parish on the main road between Kingston and Ocho Rios. She was sandwiched between five older siblings and five younger ones, and grew up helping her mother cook.
The family was in the transportation business, but when Pearl arrived in Miami 38 years ago, she saw a market for authentic Jamaican fare, and named her café after her son and grandson Clive.
Order at the counter, and the food will be brought out. Pearl’s sister Gloria Chin is the cook, turning out filling breakfasts such as sautéed liver, ackee and salt fish, callaloo greens or mackerel with “provisions” (boiled green banana, yellow yam and dumplings), hearty soups, spicy curries and brown stew fish.
Red bean soup makes for a meal in a bowl, thickened by the liquid from boiling the beans with hunks of stewed beef, potatoes and yam seasoned with pepper and thyme with a flour-dough spinner (a dumpling) bobbing on the surface. A small bowl will stick to your ribs half the day, and a large one could keep you fueled all day long.
The same can be said of the slow-cooked oxtails, beef stew and the curry goat with rice and peas or plantains. Chicken comes baked, curried, jerked, stewed in brown gravy or fried.
As hearty as the meals are, it’s hard to resist homemade cakes—red velvet, lemon or strawberry depending on the day. So nyam (eat) your bickle (food) and be happy, mon.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who blogs at FoodIndiaCook.com.