family, food, and other fun things

Want to know what a “casual” party in Guyana looks like?

The planning doesn’t take long. It’s someone’s birthday, engagement, retirement, or day off and you decide to have a party the next week. This is kind of how it goes:

First, you cook all day. You wake up to the sound of soca music and the whole family starts prepping all the food that needs to be cooked for the party. It’s an exhausting affair for the people hosting it, but a good time for everyone that comes.

From 9am to 4pm, you are in the kitchen cooking all Guyanese foods. So much of this hits home. Around 4pm, everything is pretty much done (hopefully) and you must bathe before you go socialize. To be honest, I don’t always do this and I get by with a little bit of help from lavender essential oils.

When people start arriving, you start serving the “cutters”. You can call these appetizers or food you eat when you drink. While people start rolling in, my host mom and I are scrambling to figure out where we put everything and how to properly arrange it on each plate. We try to make sure everybody gets a piece so of course there’s no left overs.

“Cutters” usually consists of the following:

CHANNA–also known as chick peas fried up with onions, garlic, celery, sometimes a little bit of carrot, and topped with lots of sour and maybe some pepper sauce. “Sour” is a mango based dip that you pretty much put on everything.

STUFFED EGGS–also known as deviled eggs in the US. My host mom and I boiled, peeled, and scraped the eggs this morning. You’ll find them in an assortment of colors like pink, green, and often times blue. You make about 1 egg person you think will attend. It’s not often people eat more.

BLACK AND WHITE PUDDING–first, let me tell you that it’s not pudding or even remotely close to it. It’s seasoned rice inside a sausage casing. The difference between “white” and “black” is that the blood they cook a set of rice in makes it black. “White” pudding is of course not as good and without the some animal blood. I wish I could tell you which animal.

FRIED FISH–pretty self explanatory. You dip it in a mayo, ketchup, and pepper sauce mixture and enjoy the night.

BAKED PORK–I don’t usually eat the pork, but it’s always there at parties.

CHEESE STRAW–You’ll find one or two of these in your take away box or in a large container for people to take as they please. It’s made of cheese, flour, margarine, mustard, and pepper sauce. Don’t hate it until you try it because they’re weirdly addicting.

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And all the while you’re eating these things, you have this:

GT BEER, MALTA, SHANDY, RUM–pick your poison. I usually start with a couple beers and work my way to a rum and coke by the end of the night. After an entire day of cooking, this comes as a refreshing reward for the good times about to unfold.

Yes, the party is mostly about the food… but what good party isn’t? We invite friends, family, and neighbors to eat, drink, dance, and lime the whole day. It’s a loud symphony of people laughing, music blasting, some people arguing, and lots of joking. There’s no real start or finish to a party. People come over some time in the late afternoon/early evening and go home when they want it to. Typically when food comas hit and you catch grandpa falling asleep at the table.

When the night is finished, we have take away boxes that we send our guests home with. It’s quite the assembly line in the kitchen as we fill each box with cook-up, chicken, cheese straws, a tiny (and I mean tiny) set of salad, a square of mac and cheese, a folded piece of roti with curry inside, and if you’re lucky… some extra black pudding. Everyone gets one so don’t even try to refuse it. We don’t care if your belly is about to explode, take the box and be merry.

Today was actually my host dad’s birthday and you can bet that the day has played out just as I described. I’ve managed to escape the chaos for a little bit to write this out and share with you what it’s like to lime with people you love in Guyana.

I have to say, aside from the food and fun I’ve experienced here, loving and being loved by my host family has been the best part. Not only are they loving and amazing and understanding, but I can appreciate how comfortable we are to give each other a hard time about everything and argue aimlessly around the grill with each other. It’s what families do.

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So with that said and a glass of rum in hand–cheers to family, food, and other fun things. Happy birthday, Jamaine!!!!! 🙂

Love always,
Mel

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