Influenced by the cuisines of Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, Caribbean fare is a virtual melting pot of vibrant flavors. While originally occupied by native Indians, colonization first by Spain, then France, introduced cooking techniques and ingredients from around the world. Subsequent occupation by a variety of foreigners provided further complexity to a continually evolving cuisine. What follows are the characteristic flavorings that transform average meals into memorable island fare. Most staples are widely available, if not already in your pantry.