When I first conceptualized this column, Tastes Like Home, I knew what I would be getting out of it and I knew what people living away from Guyana would be getting out of it. My biggest concern was and still is – what would the people living at home, in Guyana, get out of a column like this.
Tastes Like Home got started because I was seriously missing the food of home (Guyana) in Barbados and I found it therapeutic and comforting to recreate our many dishes. This practice offered me the opportunity to stay connected to home and a means with which to communicate my admiration and apperception, not just for the food, but the memories associated with them too. In many ways, I could immortalize loved ones who have passed while simultaneously creating new memories. That is what Tastes Like Home does for me and based on the many messages I get from Guyanese living abroad, that is what it does for them too.
Over the years, on my short visits to Guyana, I have been greeted and welcomed with great enthusiasm by many people who read and enjoy the column, in print, online and via social media. Their reaction to the column always leaves me humbled. Never, did I imagine that my scribbling about everyday food that I missed would resonate with the people who have ready access to it every day of their lives. Never. As often as I can (which is when I feel brave enough), I’d ask some of my face-to-name friends and some newer friends what is it that they get from the column. What is it that they are responding to? I ask not for compliments but simply for my own education. I want to know what they are connecting with and what draws them in every week. It is not easy to ask this question. It makes me feel rather vulnerable. It might be easier to stay in my bubble and continue merrily on but the truth is that Tastes Like Home has changed in many ways from where it started.
he feedback has not only been educative but more importantly, it has opened up many avenues to have a conversation, such as one would have with long-time good friends. There is honesty, there is trust, there is questioning without fear of judgement, there is sharing, there is kindness, and through it all, learning takes place. More connections are made and all of this is not one-sided, that’s the brilliance of asking, we learn from each other.
Among the things I’ve learnt from this particular visit:
People are interested in the use of familiar ingredients in unfamiliar ways. For example using salt fish to make fried rice.
Readers like to get to know about the addition of certain ingredients to some dishes, for example, the lady who now adds ground cinnamon to her bakes.
Many are drawn to my kitchen experiments such as the use of hardened coconut oil in place of butter when making pastry. Several of them commented about the 4-hour removal of the skin of the black-eye peas to make Acarajé and that they would never go to those lengths. Not to worry, I take the pain so that you can gain awareness.
They seem to get a good laugh out of my attempts that don’t turn out so well, like the butter-less scones and cornbread that I keep making over and over again.
Over the years many people confess that they simply enjoy reading about food. Period. I totally get that because I do too.
While my conversations and interactions with people in the Diaspora are frequent and enjoyable, it’s a different conversation with people living at home. The home-conversations
are equally enjoyable, however, they are more revealing because of the access they have to Guyanese food on a daily basis. For many of us, all we have is what we remembered while we lived here (in Guyana), therefore, these trips home have become particularly important, it is like returning to a well to get a constant supply of knowledge.
Let me close by saying a heartfelt thank you to all of you who take the time to read, write and travel far distances to meet up, just to say hello. I am indebted to your kindness. Thank you.