The rich diversity of Guyana’s cuisine means that we can eat something different every day for weeks on end – sampling from our history mixing and matching from our diverse heritage. As an example, curry lovers like me can easily rattle off a list of 14 different curries – that’s two weeks. Then there are other must-mention staples like Cook-up Rice, Mettagee and Chow Mein or how about a Boil ‘n Fry.
Ask any Guyanese in the Diaspora what he or she misses most about ‘home’ and the answer is bound to involve food. Guyanese food is like its gold – highly valued, even by non-Guyanese. As I sit here, thousands of miles away from Guyana, my thoughts and memories of our food are golden. Here’s a sample:
My mom’s homemade Mauby and Ginger Beer, ripened and brewed to perfection, bottled and sitting in the warm, golden, afternoon sun on tables in the Sacred Heart Church yard, waiting to be bought by patrons in attendance at the annual church fair. (PIC)
Both beverages would have been sweetened with Guyana’s best – golden Demerara Sugar. Though it costs more, I always buy Demerara sugar; it keeps me connected to home. The coarse crystals dissolve and sweeten my swank and tea just the way I like it. (PIC)
A teatime delicacy of boiled eggs stuffed with a golden, creamy filling topped with parsley and Guyanese wiri-wiri pepper, is one of those things that if you are not careful you’d eat more than you care to admit. (PIC)
Not to be outdone by the stuffed eggs are golden cheese straws, elegant in shape and radiant in the afternoon light. Cheesy and savoury with a hint of pepper sauce, this is another teatime/snack that always pleases. (PIC)
Growing up I had no idea how to go about selecting corn and invariably, I always chose the ones that were hard. I didn’t care though because cooked in fresh coconut milk with our distinctive thyme, hot peppers and a hint of garlic, they were the most delicious. These days, I buy sweet fresh young corn and cook it the same way and I am transported back home with every bite. (PIC)
School snacking of perfectly round gold coins of fried green plantains chips is an absolute favourite. Douse it with some good ole Guyanese mango sour and you have a treat that belies the simplicity of the combination. (PIC)
You think we call butterfish by that name because it is the actual name of the fish? I don’t know. What I do know is that the fresh fish glistens with gold hues and we love it fried to perfection or steamed. (PIC)
How can I talk about food being golden and not mention the deep rich gold colour of a Guyanese curry? (PIC)
I could write at length about any one of these golden food memories, but you know what is truly special about Guyanese food? It is the generosity and hospitality of the Guyanese people. No matter how little is available, there is always enough to share with others – strangers, family, and friends. You cannot go to the home of a Guyanese without being fed. If they have not seen you in a while, oh my goodness, be prepared to be almost force-fed (in a good way). They want to make all your favourites and more. Have you ever visited family or friends and in ‘gyaffing’ you mention that you have not eaten or drunk something in a long time, and not long after the item appears like a miracle? Sometimes long after dinner has been completed and if you all are still up, a pot suddenly being put on the fire to cook a late-night meal is not out of the question. Such is the awesomeness of Guyanese hospitality.
Often it takes not having access to something or being away from home to truly appreciate what you had. The astounding variety, freshness, and constant access that Guyanese have to fruits, vegetables, seafood, poultry and meat is breathtaking. I have written before of being overwhelmed whenever I am in Guyana and visit any of the markets – there is so much food! Eating one variety of banana for years and then having multiple varieties to choose from when you are in Guyana makes the appreciation all the more heartfelt.
I’ll close by appealing to all of us not to lose the essence of who we are as a people, as a nation. Our food culture is tied to our identity; it is our way of life and of being who we are. As globalization continues to spread, it is our Guyanese-ness that marks us as special.
Happy 50th Guyana!