Dec 20, 2017  Features / ColumnistsFreddie Kissoon

Last Saturday evening, my friend David Hinds and I met at Kamboat Restaurant on Sheriff Street, to have dinner, but I suggested Royal Castle food one block north of Kamboat ( I am not fond of Chinese food; too oily). I was first to order. My preference was a fish dinner. I requested plantain chips with the fish instead of potato chips.
The attendant said, “Sorry Mr. Kissoon, we do not sell plantain fries; you can get potato fries or vegetable salad or pasta salad. Now, I don’t know if that is the requirement of the franchise since Royal Castle will have to adhere to what the overseas contract stipulated. But it has to be unacceptable that pasta and potato are the side orders and not plantains.
Recently there has been a “deluge” of North American fast food outlets and all are required to sell their chicken with potato fries. I may be wrong but I doubt any of the local franchise holders ever initiated discussion with their foreign counterparts to include the customer’s choice of local vegetables like plantains.
It is a very sad country where the pathetic failure of leaders to inspire their citizens has been an evil sore on the pre-colonial and post-colonial landscape of this land. I went shopping downtown last week for toys and there are literally mountains of stalls selling grapes and apples.
There is a family business that specializes in foreign fruits and vegetable that has expanded enormously the past twenty years. This business has four humongous refrigerated containers outside the premises and all contain foreign vegetables and fruits.
Do you know foreign lemons are cheaper by a hundred dollars? In a country where Cayenne bananas should be going at least at sixty dollars a pound, they start at three hundred dollars. Plantains are $160 per pound and quite often, the price climbs to $200.
In a super rich agricultural country like Guyana, bananas and plantains should be things that are given away. Ask me what I specialize in and I will immediately tell you I am a specialist in supermarket shopping.
I know the price differences of all, not most, but all the supermarkets. Last week, I asked the cashier to cancel the watermelon at Foodmax at Giftland Mall because I was surprised at the price. I deceived myself and this was because at Foodmax, unlike all the other supermarkets, their melons do not have a price tag but the price per kilogram. So I confused myself thinking it was $5.40 when in fact it was 5.4 kilograms.
When I went up to the counter, it came up to just over $2000 because it was $400 per kilogram ($200 per pound). Life must have dealt me a bad hand but I cannot afford to buy a melon for $2100. But even if I can, I will not.
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I am also a specialist in the quality of local stuff. Two companies – Sterling Products and Banks DIH sell fruit based ice cream. Sterling has four – soursop, mango, pineapple, and guava. From Banks I know about sorrel and grape. When you taste these ice cream types, the shock jumps out of your imagination like a jumbie that runs out of the coffin late at night in the cemetery – Where is the fruit flavor in the product?
Now I know that all six flavours listed here are made not from actual fruits but fruit essence imported from Stuart Brothers of Trinidad. But I mean, make the thing tasty, please! My favourite juice is sorrel. The fridge is never without sorrel juice. Sorrel flavoured ice cream sold in this country is not sorrel-flavoured. Mango is more abundant than the Atlantic sea breeze yet we cannot make delectable mango-based ice cream.
I don’t have the answer why this country is like this but I have the answer as to where it is going – nowhere fast. The Finance Minister told the nation that only Jamaican bottled water is obtainable at the Timehri airport. He went on to say that when he is invited to speak at business luncheons in Berbice, they serve bottled water from Suriname. The Finance Minister stopped there.
He did not mention that cost per kilowatt is the highest in the Caribbean and South America and that may be the explanation (certainly you cannot blame the new government for that, blame Jagdeo/Ramotar). And the electricity cost doesn’t look like it is going to go down in the foreseeable future.
After typing this article I may go to the beach with my dog and I may feed her apple and grapes. Funny country!