Rosemary Parkinson was born in Venezuela of Trinidadian parents, the late Gordon Parkinson (a revered artist) and Ivy Parkinson and was educated partly in Venezuela finishing her education at Codrington High School, Barbados (where her family subsequently moved) before attending Hampstead Secretarial College in London England. She is the mother of Marie-France Aqui (owner/creative director u&i design studio, creative director MACO magazine, Trinidad), Sian Pampellonne (owner/creative director/graphic designer, Sian In Design, Barbados) and Sara Collins MA, Project Design (Head of Sales Andermatt, Andermatt Swiss Alps AG, Switzerland), grandmother of three and great-grandmother of one.
Parkinson has delved into more businesses than she cares to remember. From Executive Bilingual Secretary to waitress to fashion buyer and designer, from graphic artist to visual artist, photographer and now author. Her nomadic life led her to living in England, Germany, Canada, Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados. She has designed the logo for Basil’s Bar in Mustique and dabbled in television and radio, has produced several art exhibitions both alone and later with her father (now late) Gordon Parkinson – the first to show corporate Barbados that sponsoring an art show was giving back to the community.
Parkinson also designed the 20th Anniversary Independence Logo for the government of Trinidad and the logo for The Pelican – a now-defunct bar where the best of minds gathered to discuss the political or simply daily issues of the day. She was the first to publish the Tobago Holiday Map and later the Trinidad Holiday Map for the tourism industry and long before that even delved into a touch of political activism by joining The Tapia Group in Trinidad as a member in the 1970s fighting together with those who understood the struggle for the equal rights of people of all creeds and races – this action would turn out to be the catalyst that would see her already faltering first marriage come to an abrupt end.
“Racism was rife back then, and certain people were not amused at my determined stand against it. This period of her life alone would make a good book!”
In 1992, she moved to Germany where she continued on her creative path, held art exhibitions, created a Reggae Cocktail Bar (Wall Street goes Bananas) in Oldenburg (in the north of Germany) with a menu that included 100 cocktails and her first book was born. Shake Dat Cocktail (first published 1992 Macmillan Caribbean, now self-published) travels the islands on cocktails. It was this little book that would bring her a contract to write her second book – a major publication.
The publishers at first would not touch the idea of a culinary tour of Caribbean scoffing at the idea asking Parkinson to prove to them that they indeed had a culinary history. When she showed them her mock-up, meticulously put together with art and photos and stories, not only did she prove that her islands were worth tasting but Konemann Verlag sent her off on her travels with two photographers. So with contract in hand, yet another adventure started.
CULINARIA: THE CARIBBEAN
The highly acclaimed Culinaria:The Caribbean was published by Konemann in 1999 in seven languages taking the reader through the islands between North & South America tasting their culinary delights, delving into their history, their culture and their traditions. Culinaria: The Caribbean was called the precursor to the interest in Caribbean cuisine and received worldwide attention when it made the December 5thList Review of The New York Times with interviews and reviews in the Toronto Star, The Miami Herald and many other publications and with the advent of internet and blogs, made its way into the homes of many, including Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and Chefs such as Art Smith. Parkinson was invited by the Washingtonpost.com to host a ‘foodie/travel’ internet talk-show and for six months in 1999 she talked ‘Caribbean’ with people from all over the world. When the publishers of Culinaria were not forthcoming with her royalties after a year, Parkinson would begin the fight of her life that began in Barbados and ended in Jamaica.
“I met Vincentian/Canadian Leo Lewis, my angel as I call him, just by chance in Jamaica. He had been searching for me on the internet over Culinaria: The Caribbean. He could not understand why such an amazing book had suddenly gone out of print, only used copies available. I told my story. With the help of Giles Daiglei of Gowling La Fleur Henderson (Ottawa) and Dr. Wolfgang Fest-Wietek of Germany, and after a further two-year fight finally I had the rights to Culinaria: The Caribbean and in an unprecedented move, the publishers were forced to return all rights to other authors worldwide who had suffered a similar fate as myself. I could not have accomplished this major feat without these people help. It goes to show there is love in the world!”
A publisher is sought for this book!
In August 2001 Parkinson received a call that would change her life. Chef Norma Shirley, the proud owner of a copy of Culinaria: The Caribbean wanted Parkinson to sign the book at a food festival she was organizing in Jamaica. Barbadian Elombe Mottley, a friend of Parkinson’s father who happened to be living in Jamaica was part of the committee. He phoned Parkinson’s father, obtained her phone number, and within a couple of days a three-day visit to Jamaica was arranged. The rest is history.
“I could not believe how I felt once that plane opened its doors and I spotted the Blue Mountains . The friendly way I was received in the spiritual and physical sense. I felt unadulterated unconditional love from the airport to Devon House where this food festival was to be held – even from those who came by the hundreds to buy books or just to have me sign already purchased books; these books that I was not making any money off of; these books that had my life in them but no monies to keep me going.”
Parkinson signed books for three days and was surprised at the immense interest in her book. One memorable moment was Cindy Hutson, owner/Chef of Ortanique on The Mile – Miami (a guest Celebrity Chef) coming up to her almost in tears at the opportunity to meet her, saying that all her staff in the US had copies of her book and would be so thrilled to know she had met her.
From the moment they shook hands on this memorable day of her arrival at Devon House in Kingston, Miss Norma Shirley became Parkinson’s friend, mentor and her guardian angel! It did not take long before Elombe Mottley pushed her into meeting Oliver Clarke, owner of The Gleaner newspaper. Jamaica was to keep her in its bossom for almost ten years.
“I guess I realized the passion of life again. Jamaica gives one that. I was a mess and Jamaica took that mess away. That’s all I needed. With my heart back on an even keel, I wrote and wrote and wrote and worked, worked, worked. Owned up to my mistakes, sold the house in Barbados , paid off all debts, made peace with my family. None of it was easy but I ensured I did it. I do not ask for forgiveness, I just ask for understanding. People need understanding and support. I have now made it my responsibility to travel, document the culinary arts of as many islands as I can whilst helping others who have or might go through what I have. It is only right to share the knowledge. I recently read that Bill Gates only employs people who have failed in their business and everyday life. I do not know if it is true, but if it is, even if partly so, I say he is so right. When one fails so desperately, lessons that will never, never leave you or should never leave you, are learned. I was given another chance. I will not disappoint myself again.”
For eight years, a popular food contributor to The Gleaner (Jamaica), her poignant and sometimes humorous restaurant critiques, stories on ‘foodies’ and her thoughts on ‘eating local and clean’ propelled the Food Section into the international arena. Parkinson has contributed to Skywritings (Air Jamaica’s Inflight magazine), LIAT’s inflight magazine, The Nation (Barbados), Ocean Style (New York); still writes for Jamaican Eats as well as Health, Home & Gardens (Jamaica), MACO (Trinidad), The Grenadines Air Alliance Inflight magazine, Life of St. Vincent (West Indies Publishing, Antigua). She works closely with IICA (Inter-American Institute for Co-operation in Agriculture) Barbados creating the logo for their recently launched website. Parkinson also wrote a lead paper about the Heritage of Foods at an IICA Workshop in St. Kitts in 2005 that was later distributed to all Heads of Government in the Caribbean and their Agricultural Ministers, designed a Caribbean Village to promote Caribbean food products at CHIC (Miami 2006), helped in the production of a template for Taste of Exuma (The Bahamas) in 2009 and wrote a book on Goodfellow Farms (Nassau, Bahamas) – a model in agri-tourism. Parkinson has hosted the St. Lucia Food & Rum Festival and was a consultant to Taste of Barbados (2008). Her work in the English-speaking Caribbean is well documented.
“Facing life… forces life… to face you. I call it equal opportunity. I would like to say I’ve never made mistakes, what I have done is missed takes …the takes of goodness that this divine life provides me with not to be missed. If the power of the Universe is giving me chances, why should I not take them? Why should I miss them? I have also learned a valuable lesson, if you don’t ask you also don’t get. Now I am not ashamed anymore. If I am having a problem, I tell my best friend. Even if I face the same problem, again and again, there is no shame in being human; the shame is in not learning. So now I try to learn a little faster. All the light and blessedness that is there for us is within those good people that you surround yourself with. I know for sure that when you give, you do get back. Maybe not immediately but when you least expect it. Through my journey of ups and downs, I have learned that steps do not always give one a constant upward climb, but they do prepare you for reaching the top when it finally comes!”
Rosemary Parkinson’s third major book is self-published and it is called, Nyam Jamaica: A culinary tour. Self-publishing was not an easy road “but very rewarding” according to Parkinson, who produced a 425-page hard-cover full-colour book weighing in at 6 lbs.
“I wanted a certain brand to my name, the would-be publishers did not see the potential, so I reclaimed my books. Nyam Jamaica has proved me right. And I urge authors around the Caribbean to explore this method before jumping into a publisher’s lap unless that publisher sees you as his bread winner and not the other way around!” “I wanted to produce a book that Jamaica and I could be proud of.”
Nyam Jamaica is a hard-cover book with jacket, a photographic and story-telling culinary roller-coaster ride, parish by parish, around the island in Parkinson’s van that according to her is “tied up with more string and stuck together with more crazy glue than the makers of Toyota might desire”. Designed by Marie-France Aqui, touted as the best coffee-table book written on Jamaica, Nyam Jamaica is a small edition and a collector’s item. Publishers are being sought for the soft-cover book.
NEW YORK LAUNCH OF ‘Nyam Jamaica’ 2008
The official launch of Nyam Jamaica at Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem New York was followed by a series of some 10 signings across the various boroughs and appearances on Caribbean television and radio in that city. The Jamaica Observer, Sunday Herald, LIAT’s Inflight magazine, Air Jamaica’s Inflight magazine, MACO magazine, Health Home & Gardens and Jamaican Eats just to name a few, have all reviewed and given the green light to this book. Nyam Jamaica won Best Design, Best Photography, Best Easy Recipe – Gourmand Cookbook awards in 2008 for Jamaica, going on to Paris against the rest of the world where it won Gold – Best Design in the world in 2009.
CARIBBEAN TOURISM AWARD (CTO) 2009
Rosemary Parkinson won the prestigious Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Special Recognition Award 2009 at the yearly Caribbean State Ball, Grand Plaza, New York for “the phenomenal contributions to the art and literary worlds that have propelled the essence and culture of the Caribbean onto the worldwide stage.”
“I could not believe it when I received the notification that I had won such a prestigious award. I went to New York to the Grand Plaza Hotel dressed to the hilt but nervous as hell. All these very important people and little me! It was a gracious evening, I, of course, gave a speech on the importance of our food in tourism. Ena Harvey, my dear friend, gave me accolades that made me cry! I now know why others receiving such acclaim do that! I am still in awe.”
PARIS – GOURMAND WORLD COOKBOOK AWARDS 2009
Parkinson traveled to Paris in 2009 to receive a Gold at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards on behalf “of all my team and the people of Jamaica”. Nyam Jamaica had already copped Best Design, Best Photography and Best Easy Recipes for Jamaica in 2008.
Mr. Edward Cointreau, owner of the prestigious Gourmand Cookbook Awards, announced the win of Nyam Jamaica to the international press (July 1, 2009) at Le Palais Royale, Paris, with these words:
“For the first time, Jamaica wins Best in the World medal in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. This year 102 countries participated. Jamaica won Best Cookbook Design in the world for “Nyam Jamaica ”. The production of a cookbook is always the work of a team, which in this case was an international effort, including the best of Jamaica. The book packages insight into the real Jamaica, with class, beautiful photography, and perfect production. The story of the publication of this book could make a film.”
On her return to Barbados, Parkinson officially presented Nyam Jamaica to the late Right Honourable David Thompson, then Prime Minister of Barbados, at Ilaro Court saying he would be honoured to endorse the Barbados book currently being written, and did so before his demise.
JAMAICA LAUNCH OF ‘Nyam Jamaica’ 2010
In 2010 Bookophilia on Hope Road (Kingston) hosted the first launch of Nyam Jamaica in Jamaica. It was a wonderful evening with Andrea Dempster (owner of Bookophilia) ensuring that a mini-Calabash Festival was held with a live band belting out the best of Jamaica. Chef Norma Shirley’s delicious finger foods accompanied wines by Chris Reckord, both made the tasks of the speakers – Elombe Mottley & Patrick Waldermar – all that more easier (especially the wines!).
“Caribbean food has only just begun to be tasted. And this tasting has to be documented before it is too late.”
“To finish writing Barbados Bu’n-Bu’n – a culinary tour of Barbados because I have a very special and dear to my heart work to publish. Miss Norma Shirley left this mortal coil on November 1, 2010. My dear friend and I were in the middle of her biography. I have to complete this story – in fact everything I do from now on will be in her memory. Never to be forgotten. After that? Who knows. I will move with the flow!”
“If we, the people of the Caribbean, joined forces we would be self-sufficient in our foods and healthier! Food tourism is the way of our future.”
Barbados Bu’n-Bu’n took me some four years to put together, it is a two-volumed book packaged in a stunning case – a culinary ride of the island, parish by parish where I meet the people, hear their stories, chat about the history, culture and traditions of the island. Launched at Henley Literary Festival, Henley on Thames, England (2015) and Miami International Book Fair USA (2015) it has been a labour of love and here are some of the endorsements it has had so far:
“This book toasts your passion…” The late Honourable David Thompson QC MP, Prime Minister of Barbados (2008-2010)
“the potential of culinary tourism is a must…the figures on foodies travelling ther world to taste the cuisine of others should send a strong signal to the Caribbean…this work opens a whole new chapter in our culinary lives….” The Honourable Mia Mottley QC MP, Leader of the Opposition, Barbados.
“Experience the tropical beauty and tastes of this very special REGION through the books of Rosemary Parkinson. Her book Culinaria: The Caribbean is the one and only book to Caribbean cooking; her Nyam Jamaica is a comprehensive taste of one of the world’s finest cuisines.” Chef Art Smith (until 2007 personal chef to Oprah winfrey) award-winning author, restaurateur, contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine and founder of the non-profit charity Common threads that brings low-income families together through food and art.
“Barbados Bu’n-Bu’n – book of satisfaction, good taste, images between the lines from kitchen to heart. Rosemary does it again.” Lennox Raphael, Trinidadian born playwright, author, poet and artist living in Copenhagen, Denmark
“Bu’n-Bu’n is an incredible journey…with Rosemary’s inimitable prose/observations/human interest stories and photographs..exquisite…!” Dr. Karl Watson Barbadian historian and author.
“Rosie Parkinson does not just produce cookbooks. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, she has chronicled in Culinaria: The Caribbean and Nyam Jamaica, how the culture of foods in the Caribbean have become Caribbean Cuisine. Caribbean Cuisine has marinated for over 300 years in the pots of villages, the boucans of the forests and sandy beaches, and aromated by the bushes of the land. These tomes filled with mouth-watering photographs of food produced by the descendants of migrants from Europe, Africa, India, China, and the Middle East and combined with the ancient practices of the indigenous Amerindian people. Look. Read. Try. The after-taste is tantalizingly unbelievable.” Baba Elombe Mottley, Barbadian author & activist living in Jamaica.
“To say that I was blown away is an understatement and I am bursting with excitement, Barbados Bu’n-Bu’n literally packages by illustration Barbados’ cultural identity. This book is indeed a national treasure.” Beverley Alleyne, Senior Business Development Officer, Barbados Investment & Development Corporation.
“Bu’n-Bu’n celebrates the glory of the pickled hog, the crispness of a deep-fried flying fish and the taut sharpness of a magnificent mellow mauby! This is valuable Bajan Foodie Encyclopedia. Rosemary herself is a treasure of the Caribbean.” Ian Bourne, owner & editor, BajanReporter.com
Gourmand World Cookbook Awards – for Barbados – Best Photography, Best Design, Best Self-Published Book, Best Historic Recipes (2014)
Went on against other international books to win: Best Self Published Book In The World (2015) at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Yantai, China.