Sunday, October 16, 2016

Culinary Creativity in a Backyard

A marabunta hovered nearby, high enough away and minding its own business. Back in the day (as a child) I would have been worried, but now as a veteran backpacker I know better. I don't mess with it; it won't mess with me. I felt something brush against my leg. It was a hen fussing underneath the table about something. To my left a fowl cock (rooster) had just gotten some (the usual quickie) and was celebrating by doing the usual cock-doodle-do and beating its wings while the satisfied hen sauntered off to her business. A  chicken coop (We call it "fowl coop" in Guyana.) stood not too far off, and a banana tree along with some other large plants filled the immediate area around us. Stacy, Chris, Delven, and I were having a late breakfast of fruit (from Delven's mom's garden), coffee (Guyana coffee), scrambled eggs, and homemade bread served with a spread that combined anchovies and butter. That spread on the homemade bread was to die for, and the addition of butter cut down considerably on the saltiness of the anchovies. 

We sat out in the backyard (just the four of us) at a decently and simply decorated table (an ordinary wooden table - nothing fancy). It was the only table in the yard. In the background we could hear insects buzzing, birds whistling, school children playing, and the faint humming of vehicles in the distance. The house itself, a rather nondescript structure, is located in West Riumveldt, not the classiest of neighborhoods in the City of Georgetown, but apparently safe enough. We got lost while driving through the community looking for the house, but the people from whom we sought directions were more than happy to help us. 

Our conversation in that homey (for that was the feeling it evoked) covered a variety of topics - from my backpacking trip, to domestic abuse, to suicide, and also included the usual mindless and mirthful banter. If you were looking on, you would no doubt have agreed that the scene before you presented the picture of a small group of friends gathered together for breakfast at another friend's home. The  call that I heard Chris make to Delven while driving along Lamaha Street initially on our way to another restaurant, appeared simply to be one friend saying to another, "Hey, I'm coming over for breakfast." And the one at the other end of the line responding, "Great! What do you feel like eating?" Except that I had never met Delven, Stacy, or Chris before. Chris, however, when he made the call to Delven, was actually placing an order for breakfast for three at the "Backyard Cafe". 

The Backyard Cafe does indeed make you feel as if you are in the backyard of a typical Guyanese home, and among the many charms of the place is how incredibly friendly and comfortable the owner, Delven, makes you feel. He can make anything you desire, from the typical Guyanese fare to the more North American/European cuisine. A tremendous advantage that Delven has is that he combines the essential elements of those culinary worlds to create a flavor that will blow patrons away. But more than anything, Delven does not merely offer a product, a service, such as might be the case at other eateries, which often seem far removed from the customer as a human, appearing instead rather ingratiating. Delven offers a passion - a passion for culinary creativity, a passion for engagement with others. He seems to derive as much pleasure from these engagements, often happily blurring the lines between owner and patrons. For indeed, as a fly on the wall, if you had seen us dining together, you would have thought that we were all simply good friends hanging out in Delven's backyard and having a great time. And indeed such is the feeling you experience when you are at the Backyard Cafe.