Every year, Les Cuisinières de la Guadeloupe (The cooks of Guadeloupe) celebrate St Lawrence, their patron saint. On Saturday, August 11, after the traditionnal religious ceremony in the Saint Pierre and Saint Paul church in Pointe-à-Pitre, the guardians of the local gastronomy paraded in the streets of the city and organized a big banquet to celebrate their 102th anniversary whose theme was “Transmission”.
They wore their most beautiful Creole dresses, their aprons, their headdresses, their Creole jewels and their nice baskets full of culinary specialities prepared with love. They were irresistible this sunny Saturday morning.
For anything, the Guadeloupeans and the tourists would not miss this annual meeting with tradition and heritage of our island. So early, the crowd made up of people of all ages with their cameras and camcorders had already gathered together in front of St Pierre and St Paul’s Church to see the “queens” of the day when they arrived.
Until 10:00 am, more than two hundreds members of the association (mainly women and about twenty men), their followers as well as civilian and political authorities sat down in the church to attend the mass in honor of St Lawrence, the patron saint of the cooks. After several women as President – the most famous was certainly Violetta Chaville, the former owner of the restaurant “La Créole” in Le Gosier – the association now is managed by singer Rony Théophile. It also should be noted that, this year, Mrs Angéla Gamiette (104-year-old) called “Man Gégé” was the guest of honor of the cultural event whose theme was “Transmission”.
An hour and a half later, there were more spectators to see Les Cuisinières de la Guadeloupe (The cooks of Guadeloupe) when they came out to the square. Every year, it’s most probably the favourite moment for the onlookers because the Cooks gives all cakes and sweet things which were blessed by the priest during the religious ceremony, as a sign of sharing and friendship.
Guardians of Creole cooking and costume
Then, the parade went to the Paul Chonchon Sports and Cultural Centre where was organized a big reception. Before, Les Cuisinières de la Guadeloupe and their guests stopped at Rudy Nithila Center to dance some well-known biguine tracks played by a band. All along the route, these ladies and gentlemen were warmly applauded by a overjoyed public. Around 1:00 pm, all the people (tourists and inhabitants) who had before reserved their table by paying 40,00 euros could savour the delicious dishes.
This year, the guardians of the Creole cooking and costume in Guadeloupe celebrated their 102th anniversary. Indeed, it was on July 14, 1916, on the Camille Desmoulins Square in Pointe-à-Pitre, some servants who worked in plush houses on this island decided to create a tontine, this money had to be used for decent funerals.
Then, this tontine became the “Cuistot Mutuel”, the first mutual society in Guadeloupe which was, at that time, a French colony. In this way, these women also enhanced their culinary talents and made the population aware of the qualities of the Creole cooking which deserved to be preserved.
It must be added that the Guadeloupean gastronomy which stems from the Amerindian, European, African and Indian cooking was for a long time a women’s know-how.
From “Cuistot Mutuel” to “Les Cuisinières de la Guadeloupe”
After the new French law which caused the dissolution of many small mutual societies, the “Cuistot Mutuel” became an association from 2001. For more than a century of existence, its members already participated in many events in Guadeloupe, in France and abroad.
It must be known that “Les Cuisinières de la Guadeloupe” observe a whole combination of rules in their running. They chose for patron saint, St Lawrence: in 258, this deacon of Spanish origine was burnt to death on a grill because he refused to give the Church property to the prefect of Rome, he gave it to the poor. The Cookers Day takes place on the nearest saturday of Saint Lawrence’s day which is on August 10 in the calendar.
On their blue or beige aprons are embroidered with red thread St Lawrence’s initiales, a fish on a grill etc. ; for funerals, the apron is blue and the embroidery is white. Their small bells are used to announce the parade and to call somebody to order; the president of the association gives orders with hers. Their wicker baskets full of fruits and vegetables are decorated with ribbons and small kitchen utensils. On the occasion of the annual mass, the men carry a tower full of small cakes that will be blessed and given to the crowd. As for the baptism of new members, it is celebrated with rum.
In 2019, Les Cuisinières de la Guadeloupe’s Day will be held on Saturday August 10, exactly for St Lawrence’s day.