A Guyanese Culinary Adventure

Other Cuisines

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Before starting this project, all I knew about Guyana is that it was the country where the Jonestown Massacre took place and that they spoke English there. I learned its capital and its geographical location in sixth grade, and seldom thought about the country again. Being a former British colony, it seemed to have little connection to the rest of Latin America.

And indeed, Guyana identifies itself more as a Caribbean country and part of the West Indies, than as a South American country. First colonized by the Dutch and then by the English, its population consists mostly of the decendants of African slaves and Indian indentured servants, though it has a substantial indigenous population, particularly in the interior regions. Most of the people live in the coast, where racial tensions between the two major ethnic groups have been high for two centuries.

Guyanese food - like the Guyanese language - is a creole cuisine, though one with stronger Indian influences than in much of the rest of the Caribbean. The national dish is pepperpot, an Amerindian concoction of meat stewed in a chili sauce eaten in much of the Caribbean that made its way into colonial Philadelphia. I didn't make it because it's most characteristic Guyanese element is the use of cassareep, a savory molasse made from cassava, and I've given up on hunting for unique ingredients that I will only use once in my cooking. Instead I made: