Taste Like Home
Hi Everyone, I say bake, you say float. I say muffin, you say fried dumpling. I say saltfish and bake, you say shark and bake. And the truth is we could go on. The bottom line is – they are fried dough of deliciousness. And we could travel the entire Caribbean seeking to discover what it means in each different territory when someone says, “Gimme ah bake.”
My first encounter with Bajan bakes was in 1998 while attending a regional media workshop here (in Barbados). One morning, those of us from Guyana sat together for breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel. Most of us ordered something with toast, but one of our colleagues ordered saltfish and bakes. The food arrived. We all saw our colleague’s mouth-watering saltfish cooked with onions and tomatoes arrive. We decided to wait for her bakes to arrive before we started eating.
Five minutes passed and we grew impatient, we were hungry. My colleague called the server over and enquired about the bakes. The young lady looked a little taken aback. She said, “Ma’am, your bakes are right there on the plate with the salt fish.” With the plate clearly visible to all of us at the table, we looked at it with dropped jaws.
“Oh my gosh, those are bakes?!”
Neatly arranged on the plate with the saltfish were four tiny bakes, each no larger than the size of a phulourie. We did not recognize them as bakes, because they did not look like the bakes we are accustomed to in Guyana. I remembered someone whipping out their camera to take a picture of the bakes. Those media people!
In retrospect, I can suggest that the chef was trying to save my colleague. Here’s why: Bajan bakes are small and dangerously delicious, you can be tricked into eating too many! It’s like over-snacking. You keep returning to the plate of bakes because they are so handy and you can pop a whole one into your mouth. My friends, Gwen and Marie, shared their recipe with me – an unleavened batter that is pan fried and now I’m a big fan of Bajan bakes. The only drawback I find is, unlike our Guyanese bakes, you can’t stuff anything into a Bajan bake.
I was introduced to Vincentian bakes while making Guyanese bakes, looking for a taste of home. My helper asked me what I was making, and when I told her bakes she looked a little sceptical. She was not accustomed to bakes being anything at all like what I was making. She began to tell me how different the bakes are that they make in her homeland, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The following week, she turned up with bakes she had made. They were indeed different – they were thick, round, solid, and compact. When you bit into it, there was a satisfying feel of a mouthful.
Vincentian bakes are really hearty by themselves. They can be eaten just by biting into them or slicing and spreading with butter or jam. But the Vincy bake also isn’t a bake to be stuffed.
Trin-bagonians make two kinds of bakes. One is called coconut bake. This bake is made by kneading the dough with coconut milk and then cooking the dough by actually baking it in an oven. It’s like a quick bread. This means that the Trini coconut bake is the only bake that is actually