Foodie reactions of 2012

Tastes Like Home

Top L – R: Shine Rice, Anise Bread. Bottom L – R: Shrimp Cakes, Stewed Chicken (Photos by Cynthia Nelson)

Hi Everyone, One of the many things I like about writing this column is that it offers me the opportunity create old time favourites and discover new tastes and flavours. This year, it was all about reawakening some tastes I hadn’t enjoyed in quite some time. And dare I say, some that you haven’t enjoyed in some time – based on the countless emails and messages received. I thank you dear readers, for the inspiration.

Here are some of the food and beverages that got the most reaction this year.

So here we go, topping the list with Swank – Guyanese-style lemonade. It was amazing to see how this simple mixture of fresh lime juice, sugar and water evoked memories and arguments about the best way to make Swank. Some say it isn’t Swank if there is no Angostura Bitters, while others swore by the addition of some type of essence. Those who claimed to like their swank with white sugar were swiftly dismissed by the swank-aficionados emphatically stating that Caribbean cane sugar (aka brown sugar) was the only sugar to make swank. Things got so heated that the brown-sugar swank makers were telling the white-sugar swank makers that they have been away too long from the region. Aye, aye, aye.

Coag was much more unifying and many people found common ground to share their memories. It was the after-school drink of choice for some with their parents ensuring they got the right nutrition to study. For others it was the drink to have on the weekends to strengthen them for the week’s work ahead. This nutmeg flavoured warm drink made of eggs, milk and sugar provided calm in the aftermath of the Swank war.

The calm of Coag did not last long though because I dared to bring the issue of Dunking to the fore. You know how it is when you really like someone and find out that they partake in something that you find less than desirable but don’t know how to tell them about it? That was the case with my declaration of loving to dunk. Grown men in particular fumbled as they declared their love for me but not wanting to offend because they had to let me know that they do not like the act Dunking. Some declared it openly while others wrote to me directly. Dunking is the act of dipping your bread, cake, cookie or biscuit into a hot beverage of choice. It’s one of those things that you like doing or don’t.


Top L – R: Shine Rice, Anise Bread. Bottom L – R: Shrimp Cakes, Stewed Chicken (Photos by Cynthia Nelson)

Shine Rice – rice cooked with onions and coconut milk, with the option of dried shrimp or a piece of salt fish – was, for me, one of the best things I ate this year. Prior to this year, I had only cooked Shine Rice once – about 4 years ago. Then one day I suddenly got the urge to make it. The simplicity of this dish with the umami flavour from the dried shrimp and salt fish had me over eating. It’s excellent on its own but with a couple pieces of fried Bangamary, a few of wiri wiri pepper or some hot pepper sauce and you’re in food heaven. For good measure, make a jug of Swank to chase it down.

When I wrote about Anise (seed) Bread in July, I think I set Christmas cooking in motion. The war about which bread is best with Pepperpot got going. In some cases it wasn’t even the type of the bread but rather the shape of the bread that was key to the eating with Pepperpot. Some preferred bread rolls, while others swore that the bread must be plait. Most people declared a regular homemade white loaf would suffice while some swore by the Anise Bread. It was such a treat for me to eat Anise Bread as I had not had it in over 14 years!

Left: Swank. Top: Coag. Bottom: Dunking – Biscotti & Tea (Photos by Cynthia Nelson)

My mom’s Shrimp Cakes were a huge hit, mostly because it was a celebration of the Guyanese white-belly shrimp. I think for many people, particularly those living abroad, it was the actual shrimp that made them nostalgic and not so much the shrimp cakes. The various responses to this recipe led me to believe that is probably one of my mom’s original creations as the majority of responses indicated that people had never heard of shrimp cake being made with the white-belly shrimp or even knew that such a thing can be made with these tiny shrimp. In any case, the Shrimp Cakes made their way onto many tables as appetizers.

To close out this year of eating, the column, A Big Pot of Stew, featuring my Stewed Chicken was the most requested recipe this year. We do eat with our eyes first and it was the photograph of the Stewed Chicken that had people salivating. One woman wrote to tell me that she was up at 4 am making the Stewed Chicken and on her way to work, dropped off a big bowl of the stew for her parents. See why I like writing this column?
Thanks for the continued support and for still enjoying Tastes Like Home. Keep the messages coming and I look forward to sharing in 2013.

Happy New Year!



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