Ackee and saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica. Ackee is a fruit indigenous to West Africa that was taken to Jamaica while the country was a British imperial slave colony. The transportation of ackee thus mirrors the transportation of enslaved Africans, the descendants of whom make up the majority of Jamaica’s population at the time the novel is set. There are multiple levels, therefore, on which ackee and saltfish symbolizes Jamaican history, culture, and identity. Several of the white American characters living in Jamaica express a love of ackee and saltfish, including Barry and Chuck. Their love of the dish shows a desire to connect to the “real” Jamaica and experience the culture like a local. However, both Barry and Chuck also refer to ackee and saltfish as being like scrambled eggs, due to the fact that cooked ackee resembles scrambled eggs in appearance and texture. By referring to ackee in this way, Barry and Chuck divulge that––as much as they would like to think otherwise––they do not have a truly authentic connection to Jamaica but inevitably relate to the country through their own slanted, American viewpoint.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Ackee and Saltfish appears in A Brief History of Seven Killings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
...King Burger. Unlike other Americans in Jamaica, Barry embraces the national cuisine and loves eating ackee and saltfish, although the first time he had jerk chicken he couldn’t handle the spice.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
Part 4, Chapter 20