TRADITIONAL aromatic cuisine coming out of the multi-ethnic land of Guyana is currently being featured at the 12th staging of the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA), which ends today in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Guyana’s leading culinary school – the Carnegie School of Home Economics — was given the mandate to present Guyana’s offing in the culinary arts to the country’s regional counterparts. Supported by a team of about six, including two members of the Guyana Association of Home Economists, Head Mistress of Carnegie, Penelope Harris, told this publication that the primary focus of the culinary arts faction is to showcase Guyana’s national dishes at the regional forum.
The traditional pepperpot, the inimitable cook-up and the finger-licking roti and curry have been among the foods which the culinary arts faction has offered the people of the Caribbean at CARIFESTA XII.
Those dishes aside, black cake, guava cheese, mittai, fudge, plantain chips, chicken foot and sorrel and lime drinks were featured in Guyana’s culinary arts.
Except for the chicken foot, all of the other items on offer were known in Haiti, Harris pointed out.
And despite the Haitian culture being almost completely different from that of the English-speaking Caribbean, Harris noted, success has enveloped the culinary team, which has been supportive and dedicated since its arrival in the French-speaking nation.
But this aspect of art has been challenged by the language barrier, and has encountered some minor difficulties. “Some of the nationals have difficulty understanding Guyanese…They understand some words, but most times not in the context in which they are used,” Ms Harris has said.
Harris disclosed that students from the culinary institute of Haiti have been lending much-needed support in this regard. She noted that it has been easier to communicate with those students, since most words used in the culinary arts were birthed out of French.
She said that the Grand Market, which currently houses the booths and culinary shops, has been relatively slow during the day. This notwithstanding, those who have seen what the Carnegie School of Home Economics has to offer have expressed interest.
Apart from the general display and sale of food, a proud Harris disclosed that a cooking demonstration spearheaded by her team on Thursday was considered a “major success” when the weight of its impact was measured. That demonstration entailed the preparation of ‘parata’ roti and puri, which were then served to onlookers with mango sour and curry — chicken and beef.
One of the funny moments after the cooking demonstration, she recalled, was the Haitians returning with puri and sour to say that they did not receive meat with it.
After it was discovered that the demonstration had recorded a high level of success, it was decided to hold another demonstration on Saturday. That demonstration yesterday featured preparation of conkie and of vermecelli.
Ms Harris has said it is difficult to assess Guyana’s performance in relation to the culinary arts against the performances of other countries. Haitians in particular, she said, have primarily been selling fast food at the Grand Market, which makes it difficult to network and share ideas.
Traditional Haitian foods were, however, being sold on the street, but those could not be accessible because of several constraints.
This Caribbean festival, where various Caribbean craft rubbed shoulders with fashion shows, gastronomy, music and other creative art forms, will conclude today. (Sponsored by GT&T)
By Ravin Singh in Haiti