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Guyana is a nation forged from diverse historical cultures. Here culture means one’s lived experiences, the systems under which they arrived, laboured and/or lived, unique foods, beverages, religious practices, ethnic customs, entertainment/relaxation, conflicts, gender roles and relations in the family/community structures, dress, concepts of beauty, naming, colour (skin pigmentation), physical traits, concepts of marriage/union and separation, value placed on education, definition of wealth, social order, communal governance, among other characteristics unique to a group.
Guyana is celebrated as a nation of six peoples, namely: – Africans, Amerindians (First/Indigenous Peoples), Chinese, East Indians, European and Portuguese. And out of the diverse experiences there is much to celebrate. Each could find in the other, even those perceived as enemies, at least one thing that unites us. Food.
There is something special about a Guyanese kitchen. There are fond memories associated with this part of the home, as early as childhood, inhaling the smells wafting through the air, helping to prepare a dish, stealing a taste even before the dish is cooked. These are memories taken wherever Guyanese are, often seeking to recreate and pass down to younger generations.
This week’s Women’s Page showcases two women, Althea Brown and Alica Ramkirpal- Senhouse. Both are living in the United States of America (USA) and have carved niches, among the global foodies, spreading the delight of local foods to Guyanese (home and in the diaspora), others who love our food, and those desirous of trying them.
Ramkirpal-Senhouse’s blog is named Alica’s Pepperpot. To her, the name is a reminder of the national dish, symbolises the vibrancy of her family, their cooking, her culture, and connection to her Guyanese heritage. Brown’s blog is named Metemgee. She said the name/dish represents comfort food, what she loves about Guyanese food, and that “lick your bowl good” feeling occasioned when eating the dish.
A visit to their blogs shows an array of mouthwatering foods, with step-by-step pictorial representation of how to prepare them, unto completion. Then nicely displayed to tempt us all. Alica and Althea’s cooking are a labour of love and reminders how much Guyanese enjoy their food, wherever we are, and irrespective of where they originated. We eat every mouthwatering morsel.
Children, as early as kindergarten/primary, in learning about the history of Guyana have also learned the origins of our dishes. For example, pepperpot is an Amerindian dish; metemgee, African; curry, East Indian; garlic pork, Portuguese; fried rice, Chinese; and corned beef, European. The potpourri of foods showcase a Guyanese identity forged out of diverse historical experiences and cultures. And behind every dish is a personal story.
Many could recall the first time eating a particular food, who cooked it or cooked it best. What are the special days and events for certain dishes. Some make claims to being professional food tasters and would swear, up and down, which member of their family, restaurant (cook shop), individual or group could best prepare that special dish; or could boast which food they could cook best or prefer. Food is serious conversation. Althea and Alica are helping to keep these conversations and braggadocios memories alive.
Alica’s parents are Guyanese and she lives in New York. Althea was born in Guyana and migrated to the USA. For a while she lived in New York and later moved to Colorado. Whilst both have a passion for cooking each has a unique reason for creating her blog.
Althea Brown – (photo credit- metemgee)
For Althea it was moving to Colorado where Guyanese foods were not readily available as in New York and wanting to help others prepare local foods using imperial and metric measurements. She noted the departure from the traditional ‘a little of this, a pinch of that, and cook until done.’ Alica stated the reason for her blog is to preserve West Indian and Caribbean cooking. She also said cooking with her family helps her to understand her culture and identify with it in a beautiful way.
This Independence (Guyana) and Memorial (United States) weekend, visit the pages of Alica (https://www.alicaspepperpot.com/) and Althea (https://metemgee.com/). Feast not only your eyes or have your mouth watering from their array of dishes but try their recipes. These blogs serve as a reminder that food is a language of love and cohesion in the Guyanese community. Eat on…! (Source: internet).