Guava Duff: Dessert Dumpling in Rum Sauce

Guava duff is perhaps the most quintessentially Bahamian dessert. If you grew up in the Bahamas- like me- chances are this doughy, rum drizzled dessert was the ultimate sign of a special occasion. Guava duff is a labor intensive delicacy of fresh or canned guavas rolled in dough and boiled dumpling-style. The fruity dough is then covered in a sauce made from sugar, butter, and rum (dark, sugar-cane, Caribbean-style rum only). Guava duff first came to The Bahamas in the 1700s. ‘Duff’ is a pudding-dumpling hybrid brought by British colonial settlers to the islands. It was originally cooked in a sleeve called a ‘pudding bag’, and had both savory and sweet varieties. Over the years, the dish evolved into the tropical rolled and boiled dough that it is today. Interestingly, the guava- the variety with the goldenrod skin and blushing pink inside- is one of the few fruits that is truly indigenous to the Caribbean (as well as Mexico and South and Latin America). Today, nobody uses a pudding bag to cook guava duff; rather, the dough is flattened, spread with guavas, and then rolled into a log before being boiled and filling the air with the a sweet, decadent scent. I love the sensory power of taste, flavor, and memory in thinking about how recipes and dishes travel the world. Every person who brought a dish or element of a dish from one place to another had memories encoded in the flavor. Perhaps eating that dish in their new home reminded them of their old home. As a dish grows and spreads in its new home, new memories and associations became encoded for new people. Though I wasn’t born in the Bahamas, I grew up there and have spent a lot of my life grappling with the idea of “home”, and defining my relationship with the country of my childhood. As an adult, my idea of “home” is still constantly evolving, but I do know that the taste of guava duff will always be the taste of home on a holiday for me. (Photo credits: http://www.searchantigua.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/3066452000_22bff6e706_b.jpg)

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