I hope you got a chance to eat some ‘granny ole-time food’ at the 2-day Visual Art and Craft Market held during the week on Main Street in Georgetown. There were promises of Mauby, Sorrel and Swank; Shine Rice, Cook-up Rice with Okra, Conkies, and more.
Whilst on a recent whistle-stop trip to Guyana, I caught a segment of the “Guyana Today” morning show on the National Communication Network. The host (Mark Watson) was chatting with some artists and Director of Culture Tamika Boatswain, about the upcoming 2-day market, a part of the Independence celebrations. One of the artists, Pat (no last name given), is apparently well-known for her textiles, however, food, she said, is her “thing”. And by that, I think she meant that she likes to cook and share and is all about celebrating Guyanese food culture. As she listed some of the things she would be making, like Shine Rice, Swank, Conkies and Metem, the host begged her to stop, pleading that it was too early in the morning to make him ravenous. His exact words were, “It’s too early to wake up those worms”. Pat pitched her food on the show as ‘granny ole-time food’. What does that mean?
‘Granny’ and ‘ole-time’ in this context, refer to an era where cooking was about slow food, stretching, and making do. It was also ‘sweet hands’ food. There were no recipes with listed ingredients and directions; it was a little of this and that; a pinch, or sprinkling of the other, or a handful of something. The food was stirred, flipped, brewed, boiled or cooked down until there was a cue detected by the sense of sight, smell, touch, taste or hearing. It’s the original masterclass style of cooking. The things Pat pointed to as ‘granny ole-time food’ are telling, more so because of the time and skill necessary to make them in order to yield a taste that would transport many to their days of childhood: of sunlit afternoons skipping, running, climbing, swinging and pitching marbles; thirst quenched with ice-cold glasses of fresh squeezed juicy limes, mixed with water and golden, brown sugar, Swank. The real thing, not modernized with essence or bitters…..