Dharani Persaud is a queer Guyanese-American writer, activist, and archival enthusiast from Minnesota. She graduated from Wellesley College in 2017 and currently works at GrubStreet as their Youth & Community Programs Coordinator. She has publications in Brown Girl Magazine, Kajal Magazine, Mused Literary Review, and forthcoming in Hobart. When she's not at work, you can find her messing around with recipes or reading contentedly in bookstore corners.
What will you be presenting about? I want to present about my Indo-Guyanese heritage and my journey to rediscovering Guyanese food after growing up mostly only exposed to Indian food. It wasn't until a few years ago that I started to understand what being Guyanese meant in relation to the broader South Asian diaspora. I've only ever been to Guyana once, so I've connected to my roots by cultivating recipes from family members and doing my own research on different Indo-Caribbean and Guyanese food. Making this food (even when I don't get it right, like every single time I try to make roti) and researching the histories of this food makes me feel closer to my heritage.
Best piece of advice you ever got about cooking: I started off as a baker because I like following very specific rules and measurements and used to get overwhelmed when attempting to create things without a formal recipe. When I did try to cook, and asked for a cooking recipe from my mom, she would give me some vague amount of ingredients and a loose way to put it all together. I would get frustrated and ask her how I was supposed to fill in the blanks, and then she would tell me to "just feel it" (which I'm sure is a phrase many BIPOC have heard from their elders when they ask about cooking) and that I need to loosen up a little. I actually hated this advice for a long time but have come to understand it the more I experiment in the kitchen. Relying on intuition has been a learned skill for me but it's led me to make some really good food!
If you could only eat one meal forever, it would be: Probably shahi paneer, rice and naan, with some nimbu pani or mango lassi.
Favorite food: Stroopwafel! If that counts as food
Recommended reading: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, Good Talk by Mira Jacob, If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar
Best meals: Grilled cheese and tomato soup; The really fancy bloody marys that have almost a full meal attached to them; Dhal puri and mango sour
Food you'd like to try: I recently watched Samin Nosrat's Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix, and in one episode she goes to Mexico, specifically to Tixcacaltuyub where a wide variety of honey is harvested. I was super intrigued because Samin described how all the different kinds of honey tasted, some really sour, which sounds amazing! Also I would love to try the homemade corn tortillas in that episode.