Photo: Photo: Food Porn:: Chick peas, potato curry, Guyanese roti by my Dad

Guyana Channa Curry Recipe from My Mom
Ingredients: chick peas, curry, onions, green and red peppers, scallions and any other herbs that you like, olive oil.
Chick peas, which we call channa in Guyana and Trinidad, are very easy to cook. It is better to use the dry chick peas instead of the cannned. Chick peas take a very long time to boil unless you have a pressure cooker.
1. Cut up onions, peppers, scallions and any other herbs that you like.
2.  Heat the pan, then pour oil. I like to use olive oil and vegetable oil. When the oil is hot add the herbs, stirring until the onions become soft.
3.  Add about a spoon of curry powder and about half of a spoon of ground jeera (cumin) – be sure the cumin or jeera/ geera is ground up to avoid the seed texture. Then put in the chick peas and cook it to whatever consistency you like.
4. Sprinkle black pepper and oregano.Some people like their channa a little hard and some like their chick peas a little softer.
5. If you are using canned chick peas make sure you throw out that water, put it in a heavy strainer or colander, then run some cold water over it to reduce the level of salt. Chick peas can also be added to the salad when cold.
6. Make curry chick peas for your beloved and check out my mom’s advice for a long relationship.

Curry Magic: What the Smell of Curry Means to Me

Immigrant Food Stories by A First Generation American Guyanese Daughter

Lunchtime. New York City school cafeteria. Some time in the 1980s. Everyone opens their lunchboxes to reveal varied sandwiches: peanut better, jelly, tuna, salami, and the like. I knew from my lunch bag’s smell exactly what I had. Something and curry. It didn’t matter what. It all smelled the same. Rich. Yummy. Delicious. Or that’s how it smelled to me. To the other kids it smelled gross. Ill. Yucky. And although I disagreed on the inside I pretended to agree on the outside. I rejected the curry and I rejected myself.
Guyanese cooking is a blend of foods reflecting our combined African, Southeast Asian Indian, British and Amerindian heritage. Bun and cheese with tea for breakfast. Saltfish with bake, a sweet cake-like bread for brunch. Bora, a majestic cousin to the lowly string bean. Pepperpot, a casreep (cassava extract) and meat stew.

I told my mother that she had too much on her plate and started to make my own lunches that looked like what the other kids ate. Peanut Butter and Grape Jam sandwiches. Good, basic, non-smelly, American sandwiches. Then I devoured my curry chicken and roti when I came home. It was hard enough fitting in when my mother and aunts did things like send me to school on picture day wearing Aunt Silvy’s tiara so that I wouldn’t get teased.

My Aunt Silvy, mom’s big sister, was well known for three things- her great cooking, fashion sense and her big mouth. I have definitely inherited the big mouth but I am still working on cracking her cooking codes. My family is Guyanese so everyone cooks with curry but only my Aunt Silvy had the recipes that would literally have the steaming chicken melting in your mouth. When I walked into her building on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn I smelled the curry cooking way before I made it to the third floor. The smell held me like a hug. I knew that Aunt Silvy had spent hours creating her recipe concoction with the pungent scent that smelled like wildflowers to me.

When I went away to college, eating the bland regulation food made me long for the tastes and smells of home. Thankfully care packages came often and when they were over-nighted with a frozen curry dish I still knew the smell before tearing the box open. Being away for the first time, we students were all different together and proudly shared pieces of home. To my roomie that meant her Philly’s team banners; to me it meant curry chicken.

Lately I have been practicing my own curry recipe formulas. No complete successes yet but with the addition of cumin and turmeric I am getting close. My beloved aunt who was my second mother passed away before I could acquire her recipe secrets. Many Americans have told me that they hate the smell of curry. If that’s the case we can’t “gree” – Guyanese patois for getting along. As an adult I can proclaim what I was too embarrassed to assert as a child. To me, curry smells exactly like love.