In the states I would consider Nate and myself, “Foodies”. If you are not familiar with this term, let me elaborate a bit. A “Foodie” is someone that loves food, I mean LOVES food and all it represents. They appreciate the color, taste, and texture of the food. They are concerned about where the food was produced, who produced it and how it was produced. They are obsessed with trying to combine different flavors (savory, sweet, spicy, etc.), and read cookbooks on their free time. Days, weekends, vacations are surrounded around food and where to score the best local cuisine. Food embodies different sentiments and for a “Foodie” celebratory events and seasons all have their own flavor. They are also constantly trying to learn how to take any meal and recreate it from scratch, with the occasional twist. Ok I could keep going, but I think you get the gist. So like I was saying before, Nate and I are “Foodies,” and since we have recently found a lot of time on our hands, cravings for all sorts of food we can’t get down here in Guyana, and a plethora of raw ingredients, our newfound hobby is cooking.
So I know a question on everyone’s mind, is what do we do on our spare time. Well we cook every single meal, and the only one that is not elaborate is lunch M-F, because we only have one hour to eat. Those meals usually consist of Mac & Cheese or peanut butter (or Nut-Butter, that’s what the Guyanese call it) and jelly sandwiches. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays is when we really go all out. It took awhile to learn how to cook on Guyanese cookware and on a gas cook top (since we still don’t have a range, fingers crossed we will be getting one in the next month). Guyanese have two staple items called a “Kahari” and a “Tawa.” A “Kahari” is a cross between a big pot and a frying pan that doesn’t have a lid and is made of aluminum, so the bottom of it gets pretty charred after using a few millions times. A “Tawa” looks like a big round griddle, also made of aluminum. Guyanese only cook with a few spices; these are Curry, Masala, Geehra, black pepper and salt. So learning how to use these spices was a challenge, before we got some awesome care packages with all sorts of seasonings. Our first few weeks at site, we ate a lot of burnt food and gosh-awful curried-spiced dishes. Of course, once we passed the steepest part of the learning curve we straight up began dominating some incredible dishes.
Dinner: Spiced split-pea soup, pan-fried okra, onions and tomatoes with whole-wheat flatbread. Homemade pineapple, onion, garlic pizza with a tomato broad-leaf spiced sauce. My famous three-bean pumpkin chili with homemade whole kernel cornbread. Panko-crusted buffalo chicken with sweet potato fries and chipolte ranch sauce. Chicken Mofongo that my dad would be jealous of (Wink, Wink). Eggplant parmesan with a fresh tomato and broad-leaf sauce. White-cheddar chesse sauce over pasta and fresh veggies with homemade breadsticks. Red-bean and oats burger with Guyanese cheese.
Lunch: Fresh guacamole and garlic/lime hummus with homemade corn tortillas. Homemade falafel with ranch dressing and a zesty-sweet cucumber salad. Plantain chips and phulourie (split-pea flour fritter) with Green mango sour sauce. Nate’s incredible New York style soft pretzels with a zesty mustard dipping sauce.
Breakfast: Banana and M&M (thanks Tammie for the M&M’s) pancakes from scratch with cinnamon-rum syrup Nate made, Holy deliciousness! Banana Bread…Incredible! Curry egg salad sandwich (we finally got a hang of curry). Our own grown Lemongrass tea. Hot chocolate from raw cocoa produced locally (you have to grate the sticks of cocoa and boil it).
As you can see, we are becoming quite handy in the kitchen and the best part is that we typically don’t spend more than $25 a week on all the ingredients, since we each live on about $4 a day. We also are lucky that we have some pretty awesome fruit trees in our backyard that include mangoes, cherries, and avocados the size of your face. Not to mention all of our generous neighbors that give us Pineapple and free-range organic eggs almost on a weekly basis. We have also become incredibly good at not wasting a morsel of anything edible. This anecdote is for my dad, you would be proud. Last week, we bought two pounds of chicken and made three meals out of it. We cut the skin off and made chicharrones, which is friend skin to put in our mofongo. We took the neck, all the bones and the spine of the chicken and made a soup and then we took the meat of the chicken and made Panko-crusted chicken nuggets, which is why we bought the meat in the first place. So as you can see, nothing goes to waste here. Not only do we not have the luxury of throwing away anything that is edible, we don’t have the heart when we see children who are malnourished.
Back home we spent a lot of time, money and energy trying to find food that was produced in a sustainable way that was local and organic. Living in Guyana, which is the food basket of the Caribbean, we feel even more connected to our food and the best part is that we don’t have to spend a fortune.
Till next time.