>> Wednesday, 23 April 2014
You were probably wondering if men are not interested in MY FOOD. They are! And this week is the first of several.
MY FOOD is an online research project into my ongoing interest into Caribbean food culture and food heritage. The project seeks to explore how we think about food, how we use it to connect and communicate, and the importance of food to our identity. For full details of the project and how to participate, click here.
In the sunshine state of Florida, we find my friend Mark.
MF: Mark, welcome to MY FOOD! How long have you been living abroad?
Mark: 20 yearsMF: You are?
Mark: GuyaneseMF: What is a dish or 2 that you would say identifies you as Guyanese?
Mark: Pepperpot and Cook-up Rice. I like the unique preparation of these two dishes and the variety of ingredients, particularly for Cook-up Rice.MF: What for you is a taste of home?
Mark: Cook-up Rice and Swank or one of our local fruit drinks. I like five-finger and gooseberry.MF: When you are entertaining, whether at the holidays or generally, what if any home dishes do you make?
Mark: Cook-up Rice, Fried Rice or Curry.MF: If your guests or non-West Indian, do you still make those dishes?
Mark: Yes, I do.MF: Do you explain to them what the dishes are?
Mark: Most of the time.
MF: When you go to potluck get-togethers, what's your choice of dishes to make - West Indian or one from your adopted home?
Mark: I usually choose a rice dish but cook it the way we (Guyanese) do. Or sometimes I would buy pastries like pine tarts, patties and cheese rolls; it is a way to introduce people to something different.MF: What are some of the rituals, traditions or practices associated with food from back home that you upkeep?
Mark: I buy leafy vegetables instead of the pre-cut variety and prepare them the way my grandmother did, mainly because I am comfortable with the way I was taught.MF: How did your grandmother cook her greens?
Mark: She started by washing the leaves individually. For some leafy vegetables she would add salt to a bowl of water and wash the leaf, for example, thick-leaf callaloo. They were then cut and placed in a colander to drain. She would heat the oil in a pan (karahi), sauté onions, tomatoes, shallots, pepper and herbs, stir in the veggies, cover the pan and cook (steam) on low fire. Our veggies were always steamed this way.MF: What was the food you missed most when you first moved abroad?
Mark: Fruits and vegetables especially bora (snake bean, yard long bean) and thick-leaf callaloo.MF: What are some of the must-have pantry items that you always have stocked to make Guyanese food?
Mark: Curry powder, masala and geera (cumin)MF: What type of food do you make or eat as a part of your everyday food routine?
Mark: Mostly Caribbean with some Italian-American.MF: What is your favourite Guyanese dish?
Mark: Cook-up Rice. Roti and curry.MF: How would you describe Guyanese food?
Mark: It is difficult to describe since the food is so diverse as is the influences - Indian, Chinese, African…MF: How important is it for your children to know the cuisine of your homeland/birth country?
Mark: Very important. I want my child to know about my heritage and diverse culture.MF: When you visit Guyana and are ready to return to your home abroad, what are some of the foods/ingredients that you take/bring back with you?
Mark: Nothing because so many things are readily available here even snacks and pastries like Cheese straws and mittai and plantain chips. I wish I could bring back local fruits but there are too many restrictions (customs).MF: Is there a street food or shop-around-the-corner snack that was your favourite or makes you recalls a fond memory?
Mark: I was on vacation in Trinidad and visited a roti shop and I was taken aback by the size of the roti; it was as big as an open umbrella. I had never seen roti that big and was blown away. It was a 2-day dinner.MF: Is it important for you to keep a connection to your homeland through food?
Mark: Well 95% of what I cook is done the Guyanese way and it is the only way of cooking that I know. However, most of the so-called food I crave from back home is not the main dishes like fried rice, chowmein etc. but the fruits, snacks and pastries. I long for a star apple, monkey apple, gooseberries, soursop, jamoon - not only to eat but to make homemade drinks.MF: Now you have made me homesick for Guyanese fruits. Thanks for sharing your food Mark!
Would you like to share your food with MY FOOD? Know someone that does? Leave a comment below or inbox me directly. The project is opened to anyone that falls into any of the categories below, and you do NOT need to have a blog to participate.
- Caribbean/West Indian living at home
- Caribbean/West Indian living abroad (1st, 2nd, 3rd generation. State which generation you are)
- Non-Caribbean/West Indian married to/partnered with Caribbean/West Indian folk
- Non-Caribbean/West Indian but the region has been home for at least 5 years.
Join the conversation on Facebook, and don't forget that you too can participate, get the details here. The next instalment of MY FOOD is on Wednesday, May 7.