Guyana: Three Riverain Meals


 by Peter Halder


Also known as Bush Food, All-in-One is a kind of Cook-Up Rice or One-Pot. It is a variety of items cooked in one large iron pot.

The ingredients included rice with green plantains, hog tannia, oku yams, cassava and ochro cut up into small pieces, dried pigeon-peas, cut up eddo leaves, broad leaf thyme, onions, tomatoes to add colour, and red and yellow wirri- wirri pepper. Meat included both fresh and smoked labba, wild cow, wild hog, smoked hymara (fish) and cut up salted pigtails and pig snout. It was cooked with lots of coconut milk and broth from boiling the bones and gristle of wild animals.            

A hole was dug in the ground and large stones placed in and around it to make the earth stable and compact. Fire was kindled from dried wood cut into narrow lengths. The most popular was wood from the wallaba tree. The huge pot was placed over the fire in the hole.

The pot required oversight during the cooking and regular stirring with a very long, wooden spoon.


The tucuma worms were obtained live from the heart of the troolie palm tree. A small palm in the forest was cut down and the cream-colored heart in the bough was extracted. It was placed in a large enamel basin and alcohol sprinkled on it. After a certain amount of time, little worms appeared in the palm heart.

When the worms were ready for cooking, a large frying pan with coconut oil was placed on a fire. When the oil was hot, the worms were plucked by fingers, one by one, from the heart and dropped into the hot oil. When they plumped and were brown all over, they were taken out with a spoon, one by one, and placed in a wide enamel plate.

A small enamel plate with casareep sauce, wild red cherries and small red wirri-wirri pepper added flavor to meal. The fried worm was dipped in the cassava sauce before eating. The gourmet meal was usually eaten with cassava bread, toasted and buttered with red salt butter. It was also served with wild fruits, like the ubudi (cashew) and bush tea made from the dried leaves of certain shrubs.


The strange meal was a thick soup cooked in a large enamel pot. The liquid for the soup was a broth obtained from boiling the bones of animals and then removing them. Boiled eddo was added and mashed to thicken the liquid. White, thick pieces of alligator tail flesh, which had been salted and put in the sun to dry and then the salt boiled out, were put in the pot. To it was added cut up pieces of plantain, cassava, sweet potato, tannia and yam, called cutty-cutty veggie. Other ingredients included cut up eddo leaves, a few small leaves from the bay and eucalyptus trees, pieces of carambola or souree, wirri-wirri pepper, lots of broad leaf thyme,onions and tiny pieces of salt-beef to add a zesty flavor. Salt was added to taste.

The gourmet meal also included slices of a large, round ticar (flour bake) boiled in oil in a covered pot.


Source: (Settlements in the 1950s along the Upper Demerara River.)        

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On October 6, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Interesting article. The All-in-One was mouth-watering. Can’t say the same for the other two meals. I’m not adventurous with strange foods.

  • de castro compton  On October 7, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Food and its preparation was always my kinah (concern)
    My dear mother once tasted the spoon she was cooking with
    at dinner I was on hunger-strike ….I refused to eat and was sent to bed
    “Wid a salt biscuit”….I never told my mother reason for my hunger strike…

    Today professional cooks taste as they cook but never seen them return spoon to pot after….but as its TV “stage managed” I know/suspect/think they do….
    Maybe I am over-reacting but I do have my reservations on how my food
    is prepared…clinically so.!

    I would taste anything as long as it looks good….but won’t swallow if I
    dislike the taste… good wines the pleasure is in the tasting…so be it in food.

    Guess that makes me an eccentric in drink/food.

    Our taste buds are in our palate not in our eyes or stomach.
    Enjoyed the recipe and the preparation.
    My favourite foods are internationalist in choice/taste.

  • Dmitri Allicock  On October 7, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Many Bushmen of old would trade the accepted meals of the city for wild meat, Tacuma or other foods of the forest. I had some relatives and still do that would go crazy with delight to enjoy a Tacuma right out of the frying pan. I guess it must taste like shrimp to them. Thanks for sharing

  • Deen  On October 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I guess we all have our own recipe for cook-up or all-in-one….and it all depends on what ingredients are available especially when you’re in the bush.
    I haven’t eaten worms or reptiles like iguana, alligator and snakes. The extent of my adventurous appetite for Guyanese wildlife terminated with the labba.
    Kamptan, like you, I have an acute “kinnah” for foods that are crudely prepared or visually unappetizing.
    Kinnah is a word I haven’t heard in a long, long time. I wonder if it’s still part of the Guyanese vocabulary today. .

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