Baking in Guyana is tough enough – but doing so with a gluten allergy? You have to get creative. We were tasked with a bush cook, but that quickly morphed into a bring-a-dish potluck. Fran and I teamed up to make cornbread. Unfortunately, there are no markets around so we had one general store to work with. Thankfully they had cornmeal, which was the biggest concern – you can’t exactly make cornbread without it. Finding simple staples like baking soda (which they apparently never use in their baking here), baking powder, eggs and sugar (which we had to substitute for the honey that the recipe called for) was a breeze. But how do we make the baking soda react? Seriously, not something I have ever had to contemplate outside of a chemistry classroom.
In a country where dairy is generally difficult to find, powdered, or incredibly expensive – we were faced with our biggest challenge yet. That sounds dramatic, but it certainly required a bit of creativity. What could we possibly find that would be a suitable substitute for plain yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk? The only thing that we could find in the store was evaporated milk, so we had to use that in the place of the soured milk and regular milk. And their butter? It’s bright yellow, doesn’t melt unless you put it in the microwave, and never needs to be refrigerated… that’s kind of concerning. We made a small batch as a test first, because we needed to make sure that it was edible before we served it to our peers. It was good, but a little dry and certainly not sweet enough.
With a little more manipulation of the recipe, we had a cornbread that my host family loved. I think the other trainees liked it as well because there was only a small piece left at the end… but I definitely have ideas about how to improve it. Always cinnamon, maybe some vanilla extract (although here they have something called essence, which is vanilla, almond and a few other extracts mixed together), or some fruit/vegetable like bananas or zucchini. Certain fruits and vegetables are so plentiful here that I will need to experiment with baked goods. I will definitely be doing so when I get to my future site.