Cookin’ with Carol: Guyanese Pepperpot

As I may have mentioned, my dad is from Guyana and my mom is a white lady from New York.  This makes me not only makes me mixed, but also a first generation American on my dad’s side.  It also makes me always in possession of something to say when you have to go around the room in those stupid introduction exercises.  (“Tell us your name and something interesting about yourself.”  “My name is Alyssa and I hate pointless sh*tty exercises.”)

And since I’m talking about it, can I just interject a side-note?  Not too long ago, I called myself “half-black” and got corrected to “African-American.”


Not only is that incorrect, it’s stunningly insulting.  I get politically correct terms, I truly do.  What you are called is important.  And I am not insulted if someone refers to me as African-American; it is a kind gesture of someone attempting to be conscientious.  They don’t know my background and I don’t expect them to.

HOWEVER.  Do NOT effing correct me on my own self-identification.  You want to get it right?  I’m half Afro-Guyanese with a teeny bit of Indo-Guyanese plus my Grandma swears that her grandfather was some Scottish white guy. (She also likes to tell me I’m fat and then try to feed me, so we take her with a grain of salt.)  And that’s just on my dad’s side.  Sounds complicated, huh?  Sounds like a situation that could be potentially fraught with assumptions, huh?  Sounds like I should use a word that I approve of that simplifies things when the issue comes up, even though it rarely matters, HUH?

Yeah.  You can kiss my half-black a**.  It’s the left cheek, in case you were wondering.

ANYWAY.  Sorry.  I’d blame the ranting on pregnancy hormones, but we all know that little bit of crazy is straight from my soul and not the fault of my child.

My point is, I don’t know a whole lot about Guyana.

My father isn’t much help because, like most immigrants, he’s not real fond of the old country and likes America much better because it has more freedom and cable TV.  Seriously.  I once asked him if he’d ever go back to Guyana and he said no because they didn’t get HBO or ESPN.  Say what you will, the man is aware of his priorities…  Then again, he’s also a Republican and a pretty conservative one which I STILL DO NOT GET considering he’s a black immigrant but we do not discuss these things because it usually ends with me screaming, “Why do you listen to RUSH?!?  HE DOES NOT APPROVE OF YOUR EXISTENCE!!!” and him laughing because getting me riled up is funny and my mom threatening to stab the both of us if we don’t shut up.

Ah, Christmas memories…

Sorry.  Again, I digress.  Anyway, armed with Google and, I plan on trying to learn more about my family’s past and my dad’s country.  Mostly for the sake of Tater; it will be nice for him to have a sense of where he came from, even if all he’ll do is glance over the info and them go back to his 3D Xbox.

(Sidenote?  Genealogy is HARD.  Anyone ever hired a genealogist or done deeper research than just clicking the little green leaves on  Hit me up if you have, I am in need of help…)

One thing I DO know about Guyana is that they make a lot of  food that I detested as a child, such as curry, plantain and roti.  One thing I detested a little less was pepperpot.

Pepperpot is the national dish of Guyana and usually served around Christmas.  It uses cassareep, which is a thick black syrup made from cassava root.  It looks like molasses, but has bittersweet taste.  This dish is served over rice and apparently is even better as leftovers…which is not what an eight year old who just wants some damn Spaghettios wants to hear.  This was traditionally made to sit on the stove indefinitely, only to be reheated and have more meat and sauce added to it as needed because cassareep has a preserving quality that makes it okay.  I find this incredibly grody, but I just had a cherry Pop-Tart so I don’t think I should be casting stones.

What follows is technically not Cookin’ with Carol fare; the recipe is actually originally from my dad and grandmother and isn’t something that a person with Captain Heart Attack’s arteries should eat on a regular basis.  However, if you want to try a Guyanese dish and torture a child by never serving “normal people” food like meatloaf or macaroni and cheese, this here will do it.


2lbs lean beef, lamb, oxtails, and or cow heel.  (Can be any meat but traditionally lamb or beef.  Carol likes bison and oxtails.  She’s weird like that.)

Fresh limes

1/2 cup cassareep (Found online or in west Indian markets)

2 hot peppers (Optional.  Good cassareep already has hot pepper in it.  Use a scotch bonnet if you hate yourself and your behind.)

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves garlic

a small handful of cloves (HEY, I didn’t write the recipe, argue with the Guyanese about this…)

2 tbsps brown sugar

thyme and salt to taste

  • Clean the meats with fresh lime by squeezing lime juice over the meat and then rinsing with cold water.**
  • Next, put the meat, cassareep, hot peppers, cinnamon stick, garlic, brown sugar, thyme and and salt to taste in large pot or Dutch oven.
  • Cook all ingredients till tender.  Eat over rice.

Just don’t watch this while eating it.  You’ll choke.  (HE’S SO SINCERE IN HIS PINK POLO.  HE SHINES WITH THE LIGHT OF GUYANA.)

***Okay, there’s the thing.  I’m including this step because it’s part of the recipe, but you don’t really need to clean your meat, according to the FDA.  Heat is supposed to kill anything and rinsing meat just throw all the bacteria that you rinse into your sink and might make things worse.  HOWEVER, this is a cultural thing.  There’s crazy amounts of debate online about cleaning meat and I can almost guarantee that if you know someone who is old West Indian descent and older, they will set you on fire if you try to serve them meat that hasn’t been cleaned.  TL;DR?  Clean your meat with vinegar, lemon or lime juice if you wanna be authentic, skip this step if you don’t care.  Regardless, be safe with your meat.  Which are words to live by, really…

7 comments on “Cookin’ with Carol: Guyanese Pepperpot

  1. April
    June 1, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Hilarious! and true.
    I also have one white parent from New York and one dark skinned parent who immigrated to the States, and the amount of innocent and not so innocent commentaries and confusion that people have about how to define me, can be funny or infuriating.
    My favorite was one winter when my skin had gotten pretty light from lack of sun, I mentioned to someone that I was half Polynesian, and the response was, “But it’s cool, you look like you’re Italian or something.” So… if I looked darker it wouldn’t be cool?
    I cut some woman off with my car once and she rolled down her window yelled “Go home **insert Hispanic racial slur**.” Not one drop of latina blood in me, and I was born in the next county, but ok.

    You have a great writing voice and very funny. And the recipe looks delicious too 🙂

  2. Kristy (@klovescoffee)
    June 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    A handful of cloves? That is a LOT of cloves, Guyana.

    I totally hear you on the genealogy thing. I don’t know how to find out *anything* about the Brasilian side of my family, but the American side isn’t much better. What I have found? Immigration records from some of their trips between Brasil & the US. Not terribly helpful, family that keeps being born in other countries.

  3. Aine
    June 2, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    Oh god, I’ve heard that complaint from Black BRITISH people, that they’ve been called African-American (by an IRISH politician, who should really know better).

    The best thing you can do is talk to all the oldest family members you can find and get them to tell you people’s proper names (if they know them. I recently discovered that my Grandma Lillian is named after her great aunt Carolina. I have no idea how they got that mixed up; a lot of older families will only know people’s nicknames.) Ask your grandma who to write to (or get her to write, if language is going to be an issue) and get her and them to tell you stories- everyone loves to tell the old “how we met” or “the time i hit my brother with the coffeepot and got him in trouble for denting it” tales that they haven’t gotten to tell for ages. (Also, even if Tater isn’t interested in family history, he’ll like those stories when he gets older).

    Good luck!

  4. Amanda
    June 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Haha you are so funny. This made me think so much of my husband. He is half surinamese… which means there is a lot in the mix as well, and I would dare say quite similar to the Guyanese mix. Also he is crazy about roti.

  5. Margaret Woolford
    September 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    I am another white lady only from Wisconsin who married her Guyanese man, lived in Guyana for seven years and have three beautiful children. I was actually looking for a recipe for pepperpot can’t find my Guyana cookbook. Yours is pretty spot on from what I can remember. It is a Delicious dish, if you haven’t had it in a while I suggest trying it again.


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