What is conch? How do you jerk a chicken? Is a johnny cake really a cake?

Decoding a Caribbbean menu can easily befuddle the first-time traveler.

Island cuisine is a creative and lively synthesis of Old and New World foods. Caribbean dishes are a fusion of African, Amerindian, European, Chinese, and East Indian flavors.

Integrating traditions from distant lands with ingredients from the lush local hills and crystalline sea, Caribbean cooking has evolved an identity all it's own.

Of course, if you're taste buds don't favor the flavors, you can always numb them with the most recognizable island staple: a stiff rum cocktail.

Press Start for a sampling of four Caribbean essentials worth savoring - and the best cocktails to wash them down.