Published: 28th of January, 2023 by Patrick Carpen
If it’s one thing our indigenous counterparts can teach us, it’s how to survive without modern conveniences. They have mastered the art of preservation and created simple and nutritious food products with long shelf life. Farine is one such food.
In January, 2023, I had the honor of driving a Canadian tourist, Patricia Cameron, and her husband, Brian Cameron, along with some of their friends, to the village of Hiawa in Central Rupununi – about 30 minutes’ drive from the town of Lethem. While in Hiawa, Patricia’s host, Estherline, gave her a preparation of farine to eat. Patricia commented that she had “never eaten cassava so delicious.” I quickly questioned Estherline about the recipe she used to prepare the farine. She said all she did was soak the farine with water for about five minutes, drain it, and fry it with some chipped onions, cubes, and all purpose seasoning – a procedure that took less than 10 minutes. She advised that using butter or margarine instead of oil would give the farine a better taste.
Farine is a yellow, grain-like substance produced from cassava. It is often produced simultaneously with, or as a byproduct of, cassava casareep – another product of indigenous origin. The starchy, high-carb, high energy farine has a shelf life of several years if stored properly.
Unfortunately, most Guyanese on the coasts know little about farine, and are not used to eating it. Farine is popular in Region 9 and in indigenous communities where it is produced and consumed. Recently, there was the launch of a “farine bakery” in Region 9 which makes other food products from farine.
In Region 9 and neighboring Brazil, farine is often added to rice and eaten with beef, fish, and other meats. It is sometimes soaked with water before eaten to soften it since it can be hard on the teeth and gums.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, European explorers found the indigenous peoples of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil making farine from poisonous, bitter cassava when they arrived there in the early 1500s. Today, farine is a food staple sold in supermarkets all across Brazil. Very likely, the indigenous peoples of Guyana had been producing and consuming the farine we know today for centuries before Guyana was discovered by Europeans.