Diving Into the Local Culture on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia

“Here, smell this,” said Hans Mathurin, 29, as he pulled off the road, rolled down his window and snatched a leaf off a bush. After a skull-rattling ride along treacherous, bumpy roads en route to a Creole cooking class, I wasn’t quite in the mood to smell, much less eat, anything, but I took the crushed leaf and inhaled.

It was a bay leaf — a common ingredient in both St. Lucian Creole cuisine and, of course, many American dishes — but this bay leaf, with its intensely herbal, slightly sweet fragrance, was unlike any I had ever encountered.