It takes Joyce Lawrence three days to travel from Aishalton in the South Rupununi to get to GuyExpo.
This year’s appearance was her second ‘tilt’ at the event and she and her son appeared busy behind the counter of a packed stall inside a booth with about six other vendors.
The booth was populated mostly by Amerindian vendors selling an assortment of food,
wines and sweetmeats. Visitors to the booth were walking around, seemingly more curious than genuinely interested.
A few were clutching bottles of cassareep and plastic bags containing cassava bread. Among many coastlanders the knowledge of the culinary culture of our indigenous peoples usually goes no further than cassareep and cassava bread. One of the vendors was holding up a huge cassava bread and people were staring quizzically.
However, the group of visitors gathered around Lawrence’s stall seemed genuinely interested in what she had to offer.
From a distance it appeared that she was offering nothing more than the items displayed on the other stalls. But a closer look revealed three sizeable stew pans covered with cling wrap sitting the table being used as a counter.
Lawrence said she had been keen to explore the commercial possibilities of what coastlanders call ‘wild meat’ but what, for residents of the interior was pretty normal food. She had become aware of the fact that the various ‘wild meats’ had become urban delicacies and she saw no reason why she, an Amerindian businesswoman could not cash in.
There were various other items on the well-stocked stall – customary indigenous fare. Lawrence and her son were moving around in a businesslike manner, seemingly bent on doing business, so that it came as no surprise that she ran a thriving business named Makawau.
The crush at the Makawau stall was the result of the various types of ‘wild meat’ pepperpot Lawrence had on offer. There was deer, bush hog and labba, the meat immersed in the familiar dark liquid. pepperpot always looks good and Lawrence was recommending cassiri as the appropriate drink to go with pepperpot. People seemed apprehensive about the cassiri but the pepperpot – at $1,000 a serving – was selling well.
Lawrence explained that the meat had to be preserved for the journey to Georgetown. After she had arrived at her relative’s place at Grove where she was staying for the duration of GuyExpo she had to look the different dishes, every night, for the next day.
Asked whether GuyExpo was “good business”, she nodded in the affirmative. Her corner in the booth had cost her $15,000 and she thought that it was worth the investment.
The interview ended abruptly as the throng of customers wanting to purchase the pepperpot increased.
Unasked questions included whether the prospects were good for Amerindian delicacies, particularly meats, becoming more popular at events like GuyExpo, and perhaps holding their own among the Chinese, Indian and African foods. Of course, this might necessitate some measure of technical support – perhaps from both the government and the private sector – to create what one might call a stronger wild meat sector in which Amerindian businesses could have a significant stake. It might be worth the while to create the requisite infrastructure to enable the movement and marketing of the various wild meats from the interior to urban centres. There might even be the expansion into frozen ready-cooked wild meat pepperpots and curries.
When Stabroek Business left Lawrence’s stall, she was engaged with a small group- a family, it seemed – enquiring about some pepperpot deer “to take away”.