AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Ibokemi Huggins and I make good bread.
A lot of people don’t know my African name. They know me as Giselle. But Ibokemi is what I tote now, for who I am.
“Ibo” is where the two waters meet – we are spiritual people. I am an Orisha devotee, not a Baptist.
I’m from Moruga, the same Moruga-with-the-rice.
My mother twin sister used to plant rice and we actually know 'bout the Creole rice more than buying rice. We grow up putting rice on the donkey and running with the donkey toting the load!
So I’m a REAL country girl.
As a teenager growing up in Moruga, you have your family (outside
Moruga), your brothers bring you out.
A REAL country girl, like me, didn’t have no boyfriend, nothing, at that age. So I came out of Moruga like a real baby.
And when you come out, your eyes does open.
You can ask Moruga people for anything.
We grow up with stove as ornament in our house. The nice shiny stove don’t need to clean because you don’t cook with it.
We used to use the dut (dirt, ie clay) oven. When time to bake, is dut oven.
Even the gas, we cook outside, put the pot bake on top the fire.
As children, we didn’t know about buying meat. Our fridge was always full of wild meat. We always had the yard fowls and we had traps behind the house.
Every day, you bound to catch a 'gouti or manicou. Or your uncle-them go in the forest, come back with a deer or a monkey.
When I came up to town, I couldn’t believe I saw all these things selling that I could just go in the back of the house in Moruga and get and cook.
Green fig, plantain, peas, cassava – I didn’t know people could sell these things!
I grow up eating monkey, so I accustomed, but for somebody who didn’t grow up in it, they would look at how (monkey hands resemble human baby hands). Imagine, you cut up the monkey and it in the pot – and you see the (severed) hand move, still!
It could affect people who didn’t grow up in it.
For a good time in my life, I lived in Point Fortin by some family, so I went to a Roman Catholic girls’ school.
Then I passed for PFC. I enjoyed it but I didn’t finish school. I went back home.
What always made me want to do something on my own, rather than go and sit down and work for people is my mother had 12 children, and even though she (might) have someone in her life, basically, it comes like no one in her life.
So at a very early age, I found out she could do anything you could think about.
She could make dolls. She teach us to make little flowers to sell.
So I didn’t think about going back to school. I thought, “Find something you like that you good at and make the best out of it!”
And that’s what I did.
My daughter Deyanna, that’s my firstborn. My son Donnel is into mixed martial arts fighting. He always win!
And then I have two (much) younger kids, Darius and Darion.
I make the first two and thought I’d finished. And then I had the next one and thought, well, I finished. And then, three years ago, I get a next one.
So now I say, “All right, don’t say you finished, just know to stop!”
Where we grew up, we just go down in the back of the house and is river. Very clean water. We used river water a lot and rain water.
Food taste sweeter when you cook it in that water.
Is only a couple years ago my mother house get connected to the water mains.
I always on the go. I don’t know how to do nothing.
I can’t even sit down in front the TV long. I don’t even-self watch a whole movie.
How I make my bread, it’s not just healthful, it’s meant to be a healing bread. I loved baking since I was a little girl.
As soon as you say “bake,” you find me, I latch on to you like a tail, you will trip over me and all, I ent moving.
But if you say “cook,” you could bawl, you could call, I not coming to the kitchen.
I started baking in a dut oven and I trying to recreate one in San Juan now.
You could get a small one, not like the big one we have in Moruga, for, like, a $3,000.
I sell different types of handmade bread – no machine. Carailli; eight- and nine-grains bread, provision and stuff like that. Pimento-celery. Chadon-beni-avocado.
I never send it to lab or anything but, when diabetics eat my carailli bread, it don’t even elevate their blood flow. Because of the kind of things I put in the bread. Sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, flax seed, chia, all these different grains.
It’s a dairy-free bread, we don’t use preservatives.So it’ll last only two-to-three days outside, a week in the fridge, up to six months in the deep freeze.
Families run down my squash-and-coconut bread because children love that bread. It sweet because of the squash – because I don’t use sugar, eh. People go off on that bread.
The best thing about making bread is that it’s something I love. I don’t sleep when I’m baking, because my bread must be fresh, and, no matter how tired I am, I enjoy myself.
My children say, “Mummy, how come you just smiling and laughing with yourself so?”
Because that, for me, is more than just baking bread. I feel good because I know what my bread can do and I know why my bread was created. It gives me that energy, that drive and that nice feeling inside.
I don’t feel tired until I get to the place where I stand up to sell.
As an Orisha devotee, I design my breads to heal. When you eat my bread, it should do something good for your body. It tastes good – but your body benefits.
My favourite of my own breads is the butter squash-coconut bread.
If there is a bad side to baking bread, I don’t think I’ve met it yet.
A Trini is very supportive, always ready to help. Like people in Moruga. So even Trinis in town still have a little bit of country in them.
TT, for me, is a very spiritual place.