Barbados and Guyana… Can we meet on a plate?

Taste Like Home

Hi Everyone,

Long before the Prime Minister of Barbados announced in Parliament, a week and a half ago, the six-month amnesty for undocumented Caricom Nationals to have themselves regularized, there has been tension. The tension has not just been between Barbadians and Caricom nationals but tension particularly about the presence of Guyanese in Barbados. When I heard the news, I looked down at the plate of Bajan rice and peas and Guyanese fish cakes I was eating. I marvelled at how well they complimented each other; they were at home on my plate. It reminded me of a comment a Bajan friend of mine made, when on another occasion there was a lot of Guyanese-bashing taking place. She said, “Barbados and Guyana, can we meet on a plate?”

The answer today as it was then, is a resounding YES!

Bajan Rice & Peas (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Bajan Rice & Peas (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

When I first moved to Barbados more than a decade ago, there were many ingredients with which I was very familiar that were not available here. Eating became challenging because the food here was different, the style of eating was different. Unlike Guyana where I could have weekday and weekend food, none of that existed here. Weekend food is everyday food here.

Adapting is one of the things I do well and so I adapted and used the ingredients available to me here in Barbados along with my cooking skills, techniques and methods to bring some sort of balance to my eating. Pumpkin, which I never liked while in Guyana, became a regular on my plate. Salt fish that I could not stand before would put in an appearance. Broccoli, which I figured I’d hate, became a constant friend and string beans, I’d cook and imagine to be bora.

While adapting I also learned the foods of my new home – cou cou and flying fish, the specialness of a Bajan macaroni pie. I fell in love with Bajan fish cakes. I perfected the making of sweet bread and rice and peas and discovered fire-roasted breadfruit. Like most migrants, home was now a merged space for me – Guyana and Barbados.

Guyanese Fried Bangamary (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Guyanese Fried Bangamary (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Over the years, I’ve observed the changing food scene here. Now I can buy and cook many ingredients that used to be difficult to find in Barbados – hassar, gilbaka, bangamary, butterfish, katahar, saijan, karaila, saim, squash, and white-belly shrimp and I can even choose from a variety of eggplants! Yes indeed, the food landscape in Barbados has changed and continues to emerge. Today one can find Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Greek and French restaurants among the already existing Italian, Seafood, Mexican, Indian, Irish and other eateries. Not to be outdone are the other establishments where you can readily purchase Jamaican and Trinbagodian food.

So these days, I find myself feeling right at home particularly where my food is concerned. I only have to think it and 85 per cent of the times, I am able to have it. In many ways, I’ve often felt protected, sheltered, comforted and cocooned from the sometimes harshness of the outside as I sit in my home here in Barbados and eat my Guyanese food and my Bajan food, at home.

Some of my favourites that meet on a plate are: Bajan fish cakes with Guyanese sour; Bajan sweet bread and Guyanese home-brewed mauby; Bajan macaroni pie and Guyanese baked chicken; Bajan rice and peas and Guyanese fried bangamary. And here’s some Bajan things that if I ever leave this rock to settle elsewhere will always be a taste of home for me – a ham cutter with Nichol’s salt bread and a Ju-C red drink, Chicken Barn’s super snack box, conkies and golden-apple drink to name a few.

So as the war of words continue, I find myself being hurt by some of the things being said about Guyanese and I take solace in the comfort of my home. I smile with my friendly Barbadian neighbour as I share with him the Trini Doubles I made today. The radio is turned off, no more call-in programmes today. Local news on television is over. The press is getting ready for tomorrow’s publication.  For now there’s quiet and all I can do is pray that tomorrow I will be a little less hurt than I was today. I’ll try and think of something to cook tomorrow where Barbados and Guyana can meet on a plate.

Cynthia

tasteslikehome@gmail.com
www.tasteslikehome.org

Latest in The Scene

20160625Royden Sealey2

Royden Sealey expresses himself through his art

Royden Sealey has always had a passion for art and as a child had expressed this in ways which landed him in hot water.

Lystra Adams and friends at the Royal Ascot

The value of craftsmanship

Those who know me well are aware of my deep appreciation for millinery and the craftsmanship that surrounds it. I think this interest stems from being completely fascinated by the women I admire and find interesting.

20160625Fit

Fit closes Spectrum 12

Painting the Spectrum 12, SASOD’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) film festival comes to a close next week with Spectrum Night, screening of Fit and the customary painting the spectrum.

20160625Rukatuks

Rukatuks for Rodney at NCC tonight

Rukatuks, billed as a benefit show for actor, poet, comedian and folklorist, Henry Rodney, will blasty off this evening from 8 at the National Cultural Centre.

T’shanna Cort

T’shanna Cort has hope in her music

“I Have Hope” is the name of the song with which T’shanna Cort won this year’s Junior Calypso Competition and today, nearly six months later, fans from all across Guyana greet her with those words and praise her performance.

Fashion forecasters (that’s a career too) predicted that 2016’s fashion trends will involve pantone colours, androgyny, romanticism, 70's fashionborn x chictopia

Looking at the bigger picture

Following up on last’s week column, fashion careers, this week I wanted to share with you my general response to the commonly asked question, can the Caribbean actually have a thriving fashion industry?

20160618Antiman

Caribbean short films, Canadian documentary for Spectrum next week

Painting the Spectrum 12, SASOD’s annual film festival continues next Tuesday, June 21, at the Dutch Bottle Café, located at 10 North Road, Bourda in Georgetown, with two short films, Transgender: Back to Jamaica and Antiman.

Scene from Me Before You

The romantic comedy you’ve been waiting for: Me Before You

If you have already grown tired of 2016’s endless parade of comic book adaptations and superheroes, Me Before You is the romantic comedy that promises a breath of fresh air.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: