At home in the Backyard Café

Hi Everyone,  20140809TasteslikehomeWhen one goes home to visit, the list of needs is small but important. Great tasting dishes of our favourite foods, a place to chillax – to gyaff, catch up on the happenings in Guyana and each other’s lives, and to simply bask in what it means to be home in Guyana. Delven Adams and Malini Jaikaran’s Backyard Café truly captures what it means to be home.

The concept of the Backyard Café is simple and unpretentious. And there is no mistaking the target audience – visiting overseas-based Guyanese. What sets it apart from other eating establishments is the personalized service and attention to your needs that you’d generally only get at home from your family, friends, and loved ones.

It all starts with a message to Delven via the Café’s Facebook page, letting him know when you would like to visit and what you want to eat and drink. Give them 24 to 48 hours’ notice to get everything you want (they buy fresh, local, and seasonal); factor in an extra day or two if you have very special dietary needs, and then turn up at the pre-arranged time, hungry, and with no other appointments set for the day.

You’re warmly greeted like an old friend or fond relative. Perhaps because you’ve spent time chatting about all manner of things via social media, so that when you meet in person, you feel as if you have known each other for a very long time. Escorted to the back of the yard stopping on the way to briefly discuss gardening and herbs, you are immediately at ease; you’re home.

One of the best things (I believe) about living in the Caribbean is the ready access we have to the outdoors. Even when we are indoors, the outdoors is very much a part of our daily living space with our patio(s), verandahs, balconies, bottom-house and the back yard, from where the Backyard Café gets its name. Seated under the canopy of a fruiting passion fruit vine with specks of the blue sky visible, I smiled with happiness; it was good to be home in Guyana. The breeze played gently with the white tablecloth and

rustled the leaves of the potted croton plants that lined the fence.

Not far away I eyed the hammock, mentally making a reservation for later. While I had made no direct requests (I wanted to be surprised by whatever the chef decided he was going to cook that day), I had gotten an inkling that fish curry was going to be on the menu (Delven must have been reading about my obsession with curry and fish curry no less!). A couple days before I was due to visit the Café, there was a discussion on Facebook about ‘Pakoo’ (monkfish) and I mentioned that I had always wanted to try it. So guess what? ‘Pakoo’ was on the menu! This is what I mean when I say that the Backyard Café is like being at home. Your relatives and loved ones hear you feel like eating something or haven’t had something in a long time and just like that, they go out of their way to get it and prepare it for you! You cannot put a price on that kind of personalised attention. If all of your relatives and friends no longer live in Guyana, you can still go home – to the Backyard Café!

Whether you go to the Café alone or with company, your hosts are never intrusive, nor do they hover, they come and go. There is enough space for you to be with your own thoughts in the moment and time for you all to gyaff. Just like home, sometimes the cook or host disappears into the kitchen to look after something, so do they… and just like how your loved ones would return with something from the kitchen to surprise and delight you, so do they.

Eating at the Backyard Café is a journey; it is never rushed and your meal is a leisurely affair. I started off by having my thirst quenched with golden apple drink and that was followed by cornmeal porridge made with locally milled corn, flavoured with whole allspice berries, cloves, and fragrant cinnamon sticks. Sweetened with real sugar, fresh cow’s milk and coconut cream, each spoonful was so creamy smooth that it felt like cream of wheat instead of cornmeal. When you eat at the Backyard Café you get to learn about where your food comes from. They pride themselves on finding local growers and producers whom they support by buying their products and using them as their main suppliers at the Café – local honey, local cashew nuts, local drinks (like the mauby from Carnegie School of Home Economics), to locally made coconut oil and wines. The café makes all of the condiments served with your meal, in-house, such as the bird pepper flakes with sea salt; what they do not make themselves, they source locally from small producers.

The ‘pakoo’ (monkish) arrived hot, fried brown with a thin crust; well-seasoned, the meat was tender and moist with a hint of sweetness. I’d definitely eat it again. A couple glasses of chilled house-made guava wine later, and it was time for curry! Gilbaka curry with the gravy thickened by eddoes along with chunks of green mango. I ate the curry twice – first with plain white rice and then with boil and fry ground provisions. The sun was now low in the sky and dessert was yet to come. Malini  (Delven’s business partner and fiancée) likes to bake so she makes the desserts for the Café. Her tres leches cake was a luxurious end to a perfect day.

I cannot wait to get back, to Guyana, and the Backyard Café.

 

cynthia@tasteslikehome.org

www.tasteslikehome.org

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