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             Saturday March 19, 2011 

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Making Cassava Bread

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Making Cassava Bread
This was one of my fav shoots. Arriving very early in the morning to watch the process of making cassava bread. The ladies are one of the few that still do this on a regular basis in Hopkins, Stann Creek.

We all know the adage, “Bread is the Staff of Life”. In Garifuna culture, this bread is called “areba” and is made from a tuber, the cassava root. Its preparation is time-consuming and laborious. Usually, women work in small groups, sharing equipment and singing to relieve the monotony. Despite the hard work, “areba” is prepared with good humor and playfulness.

Beginning before dawn, one or more women and children go to the farm to dig up the bitter cassava roots, and transport 40 0r 50 pounds back to a house yard in head baskets, sacks, or more rarely gadouri (tump-line backpacks.) The roots are peeled, washed and grated on hip-high rectangular wooden graters fitted with stone teeth. After grating, the wet meal, “sibiba” is packed into a seven-foot-long cylindrical basketry squeezer called a “reguma”. Hung from a tree weighted at the bottom, this utensil squeezes out poisonous cyanate compounds into a liquid collected in drip pans. At the bottom of this liquid, a white starch settles and is kept for cooking and laundry use. The sibiba is left to dry overnight and sifted through round, flat baskets called (hibisi.) Unsiftable coarse gratings are put aside to be baked later into a brown biscuit used to make (hiu) or cassava wine.

A hot fire is prepared under a large iron griddle, and with the aid of several wooden implements and whisks, cassava flour is evenly sprinkled over the griddle. As it bakes, it forms one large pancake, which is then flipped over with a wooden spatula in mid-air. The areba is cut by knife with characteristic double-cross, marking six equal triangular pieces. They are dried by the sun and stored in waterproof containers where they can be preserved for a year or more. At least one dozen different recipes, including a variety of porridges, jellies, and sauces based on cassava and its products, are known in contemporary Garifuna cuisine.

Eugene Trench: The making of Cassava Bread is done on the open fire as it was done years ago, no butane or kerosene stove, no microwaves, no heating techniques will ever make the Cassava Bread as the traditional fire hearth.

Photograph by JC Cuellar              
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