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Walnut Grove is filled with students of different backgrounds which includes their beliefs, religions, traditions, languages, and ethnicities. Senior Zaida Samad shares her favorite traditions, appreciations of her culture, and even shares a recipe for her favorite traditional dish.
by Jasmine Morales
Walnut Grove is filled with students of different backgrounds which includes their beliefs, religions, traditions, languages, and ethnicities. Unfortunately, these students can feel overlooked and become accustomed to hiding their backgrounds when they enter the school. Senior Zaida Samad shares her favorite traditions, appreciations of her culture, and even shares a recipe for her favorite traditional dish.
Could you tell us a little bit about your culture?
I am Indo-Guyanese. My ancestors are from India, but they migrated to Guyana when they were under British ruling. My culture is very influenced by Indian culture, but also Spanish and African culture.
When did you start noticing that your family was different from others?
I started noticing when I was in kindergarten. There were moments where I realized that not everyone watched the same shows as I did. In school my classmates would talk about the American shows they would watch, and I’d never even heard of them.
What is your favorite tradition?
Around Thanksgiving and Christmas time we bake pastries and cook a lot of food for the holidays. It’s very nice and I enjoy spending time with my family during this time.
What do you appreciate most?
How people from my culture are very hardworking and determined. They set big goals for themselves and don't let anything get in their way.
Have you ever been embarrassed?
Yes, definitely, where we live you’re heavily influenced by white culture, and you have no one to talk to with similarities. I have met some people who are Guyanese, but they don’t appreciate the culture as much as I do.
Is there anything you wish people knew about your culture?
Probably that I’m not considered Indian, but instead Caribbean. It doesn’t annoy me really, but it does get a little frustrating when people don’t understand the difference even after I say something.
What is something you used to take for granted?
Family, in culture. Family is such an important part. And growing up I was so distant from my own that I felt like I had nobody. Now that I'm older, I'm much closer to them.
How did growing up in a predominantly white community change your perspective on things?
It's made me realize how ignorant people can be when it comes to other people's cultures and beliefs. And, sometimes they don’t bother to educate themselves.
Do you think you sometimes feel like you are distancing yourself from your people and beliefs due to society and your surroundings?
Definitely when I was younger, but now, because of social media, I feel like I have learned to appreciate my culture more. I see people on TikTok or Instagram embracing our culture. I’ve realized that I have such a beautiful culture, and I should just appreciate it. I follow a lot of social media “influencers” who have encouraged me to embrace my customs.
Is there anything you don't like about your culture? Maybe some values or beliefs that you don't agree with?
I can't really think of anything. Something we value a lot is being hard-working people and it’s something that is constantly mentioned to us. So, I don’t really see anything wrong with any beliefs or customs.
Have you met anyone from school who shares the same culture and beliefs as you do; if so, how was that feeling?
I actually have not, majority of the Guyanese people I know are just family members. That’s also a main reason why I was so isolated from my culture; I haven’t met anyone in the community who shares the same beliefs as me. There are some south Asian/Indian people I’ve met, but that’s still very distant from my culture.
Where do you feel most connected with your people?
When I’m in New York. I was born there and I visit almost every year. When I’m there I feel so connected and comfortable. There’s a whole block called Liberty Avenue, and they made that whole street Little Guyana. It’s amazing walking down the street with music in the background and traditional food in every corner.
How will you continue to keep your culture alive
By educating and influencing people. And just embracing it more. Not hiding my beliefs. Also just trying to post on social media.
Could you share your favorite foods?
My favorite pastries are Black Eye cake, Pine tart, Cheese Roll, and the Guyana sponge cake. Black eye reminds me of a moon cake, it's just more flat and oval shaped but it has a really good black-eye pea filling.
My favorite meal is a hearty and rustic rice dish. In Guyana, we call it cook-up rice or all-in-one. It's typically made on Sundays or when there are plenty of mouths to feed! The texture of this rice is wet and very moist. People usually include beef, pork, or chicken in it, but others like to top it with a piece of fried fish. There is no one recipe for cook-up rice. It is a highly customizable dish in terms of what type of beans and meat you can include.
Recipe for Guyanese Cook up:
• 10 cups water (if you like it less watery, add 8 cups water instead)
• 1 onion diced
• 2-3 scallions chopped
• 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 cup green pepper, chopped (optional)
• ½ tsp black pepper
• 1 cup chopped spinach (optional)
• 1 - 15.5oz canned beans of your choice or *dry beans
• 2 ½ cups parboiled rice (any other type of rice will be too soft to hold up to the heavy ingredients in this dish)
• 2-3 pounds of your choice of meat
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