Jamaicansmusic: When you reflect upon your personal life and examine the professional decisions that you have made over the years, what immediate credit can you attribute to your upbringing and parents influence?
Renaee Smith: I would have to give my parents two thumbs. My mother is a teacher and my father is an accountant. My parents always instilled in me that a good education can take you anywhere and that it was very important. With that in mind I have a Master's degree in Actuarial Science and Insurance. For over fifteen years I worked as a Financial Analyst. I left my corporate job and for the last two years I have devoted my time to writing and baking. I am a Self Published Author and Baker. My dad used to say to me when I was growing up, if you have a skill you can always feed your family. It has never been more clearer to me what he said than in the past few years. So you see my parents have influenced me in all aspects of my life.
JAmusic: What's your earliest memory of baking/cooking (What was the dish and how did it turn out)?
RS: My earliest memory of baking/cooking is probably around 5 or 6. Being the only girl in the house it meant that I was always called into the kitchen to help out and to "learn how to do something". I would have to say banana porridge as that is one of my favourites. Have to say that my mom makes the best banana porridge. From I was able to see over the pot, it was my job to stir the porridge so that no lumps formed. It was a joy for me, and I took this role very seriously as there was an extra spoonful in it for me.
JAmusic: What is it about baking/cooking that you enjoy the most?
RS: Baking for me is very relaxing. I like to come up with new recipes or make a twist on an old one to see how it turns out. I like to see the joy on my kids' faces and anyone for that matter when they get one of my treats.
JAmusic: Why was it deemed necessary to author cookbooks of this nature?
RS: When I was writing my first book "Jamaica's Forgotten Treats" I didn't start off with this type of book in mind, but as I continued to research and see what was on the market in terms of cookbooks I realized that there was no one cookbook that had all the traditional desserts that I remembered and loved. With this in mind I created a book with all my favourites. While working on 'Jamaica's Forgotten Treats' I kept having visions of the second book 'Memba When'. The first thing I thought of was to create a book that was funny, playful and one that showcased the food some of us used to eat on a weekly basis. The recipe that started it all was "Bebige". Some of the recipes we don't make anymore but back in the day some of these recipes were common place. It really makes me say, "I remember when..."
JAmusic: How long have the books been released and how has the reception been so far?
RS: The reception for both books has been great. 'Jamaica's Forgotten Treats' was published in April 2011 and 'Memba When' was published in June 2012. With 'Jamaica's Forgotten Treats', I have heard from most people that they have been looking for a cookbook like this. Like most people if you used to bake with your mother, grandmother or aunt they didn't really have recipes per se. They just added ingredients to the amount of people they had. So this cookbook breaks it down for you. One reader wrote back to me and said she read the 'Memba When' cookbook from cover to cover. It is that kind of cookbook. The stories and the anecdotes along with the recipes are completely enjoyable. It really takes you on a trip down memory lane.
JAmusic: What motivated you to spend your time to research endlessly to get the necessary materials for the book?
RS: I wanted to give the reader a complete book. I wanted them to take the journey with me and to reminisce with me. I wanted when they picked up any of my cookbooks they would say "You know how long I have been looking for something like this?"
JAmusic: What was the greatest lesson you learnt along the way while researching the varying recipes?
RS: The greatest lesson I learned along the way was that there are a lot of people out there like me. We are looking to reconnect with the past and bring it into the future. My books speak to the heart. When people read my cookbooks I want them to remember a time when life was simple and carefree. A time with mama, granny, your cousins and everyone in between.
JAmusic: Do you really think that these recipes are truly "forgotten treats" or is it that they are not so much so celebrated the way they should be?
RS: I think that some recipes are forgotten treats because a lot of them were mainstays when I was growing up. They were always being baked on a weekly basis as opposed to being baked on special occasions. Things like Grater Cake, Drops, Potato pudding were readily available because those were snacks that I would have growing up as a child. I think also they are not celebrated as they should because a cultural shift is taking place. We have moved away from natural foods and taken on the processed and quick.
JAmusic: What do you think can change the stigma of neglecting certain aspects of the Jamaican culinary arts?
RS: We have to demystify the baking/cooking process. One of the things I tried to do in my cookbook 'Jamaica's Forgotten Treats' was to show how to create the recipes in a way that was simple and easy to follow. This way even the non-baker would want to try the recipes. Also I have put tips as well to help along the way. I have non baker friends who are working their way through the cookbook simply because it is easy to follow.
JAmusic: What is the ultimate goal you want to achieve through these books?
RS: I wanted the reader to take a trip down memory lane. I wanted to share some of my childhood memories with everyone and in doing so I hoped to spark a memory of the reader's childhood ; spending time with your grandma or grandpa in the country whether during summer or holiday time/ cooking dinner with your mom or dad. I have to say I enjoyed my childhood and doing these books really brought me back. I hope everyone will get a copy and take the journey with me. The books are available on my website www.renaeescakes.com and I am also proud to say 'Memba When" is also available on Amazon.com.
Check out the cookbooks www.renaeescakes.com
Order Memba When on Amazon.com
Follow Renaee's blog www.renaeescakes.blogspot.com