June 30, 2022

INFO 10

THE TRUTH IN BLACK AND WHITE

Linden Woman Monique McPherson keeping traditional food alive

By Naomi Marshall

Owner of Monique’s Kitchen, Monique McPherson-Jennings

While some Guyanese preserve the country’s rich heritage through dance, art, poetry, songs and fashion, Monique McPherson-Jennings, has been keeping traditional food alive for the past 25 years.

McPherson who is better known as ‘Ms. Monique’, is the owner of ‘Monique’s Kitchen’, a food outlet located at Obama Drive, Amelia’s Ward, Linden, that offers finger licking Guyanese creole snacks.

She is also known for preparing one of the “best puri and roti” in the mining town of Linden.

McPherson hails from Stanley Town, West Bank Demerara, where she lived with her mother, father and four younger siblings in what she described as “a little old house”.

The 47-year-old recalled having a difficult childhood, one with limited fun experiences due to circumstances. 

“While growing up I did not have fun because I was the eldest and I had to be doing all the chores, I had to be around my mother at the sewing machine to pick the wrong stitch and when I found that mommy was not making enough money from sewing, I use to had to make cookies and go sell them to help buy somethings for my brother and sisters to go to school. Life was so difficult at that time for us,” she recalled.

Some years later, McPherson would move to Linden where she attended the Linden Foundation Secondary School and New Silver City Secondary School; she completed her secondary education at the latter institution.

Subsequently, she worked as a sales girl, got married at age 19 and gave birth to her first child at age 20.  At this point, McPherson would be faced with much challenges but through perseverance, she was able to turn trials into success.

“Being a wife and a new mother, I had to help out at home so I quit my job to look after my child and it was quite challenging financially. So since I could not go out to work I wanted to find things to do and so I put to use the skills obtained from helping my mother sew and I began sewing,” McPherson said.

However, she later realised sewing was not her passion so she then turned to cooking which she was very good at doing.

“I found that sewing was not my passion because I never liked picking, I never liked undoing the dresses to fix them back. I really loved sewing curtains but that was seasonal and would only thrive at Christmas time so I went to cooking,” McPherson remembered.

She began making chicken foot, fudge and plantain chips, among other snacks which she would put in a container, walk around her neighbourhood in Amelia’s Ward and sell.

Some finger licking chicken foot prepared and packaged by Monique’s kitchen

Even though she was not able to sell out on her first try, McPherson was determined to be a provider for her family and so she began looking at other strategies that can be used to become known and sell out her snacks.

Next, McPherson would go into the central business area of Linden to sell her snacks which saw her being sold out. It wasn’t long after, she got the alias ‘snack woman’.

Twenty-five years later, the mother of four has two of her own food outlets located at the Linden Foundation Secondary School and Obama Drive, Amelia’s Ward Linden and does catering.

 The 47-year-old who has been a single mother for the past 15-years, told INFO 10, that her business has not only taken her out of poverty but it has made her a living proof that one’s beginning does not determine their ending.

McPherson stated, “Life has had so much hurdles, ups and downs but I have never given up. I am living comfortably and God has been so good to my family and I. I have a motto that I stick with- ‘I must, I can and I will’. This affirms that there is nothing too challenging for me, no matter what I do, I will not give up but I will persevere.”

The woman who described herself as God fearing, hardworking, jovial and fun, said that she is presently working towards expanding her business by establishing another outlet of Monique’s kitchen in the central business district of Linden.

This, she said will also pave the way for her to create employment for others, especially single mothers and young people.

McPherson is encouraging persons to be determined and persevere until they reach their goals.

She added, “I can tell people from my experience that they have to persevere. They have to have the determination, they have to want it for themselves, they have to go after what is their heart’s desire. Only if somebody wants it ,they can achieve it. We can want it for people but they have to want it for themselves.”