Cassava, or manioc, as it is commonly called in Dominica, is as Caribbean as the Amerindians who first made the Caribbean their home. According to our famed historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch, the Igneri, a group of Arawakan speakers who first arrived in Dominica in 400AD, farmed and processed cassava as part of their daily living. So, growing up, Cassava was very much viewed as native to our Kalinago people, deeply rooted in Dominican history and culture. It was food for the everyday Dominican, relatively inexpensive, fairly available, and importantly, delicious. Moreover, cassava was known as a staple with many health benefits, which, our older people in Dominica would summarize simply as it was “good for your sugar.”
Today, in a world where more and more people look to reduce wheat intake in their diet as allergies have become more prevalent, cassava and other alternatives for wheat have grown in appeal. And Glenworth Cyrille, better known as The Cassava Man, has built a beautiful business that brings this special Dominican food and experience to the streets of Roseau, so that both Dominicans and tourists alike can enjoy this island tradition in a more modern and accessible form.
For Glenworth, who was raised in Calibishie, cassava is a family business. While he started his business only about eight years ago, he says both his grandmother and his mother leveraged cassava as a form of economy. But he’s updated the business model and brought cassava from the classic oven to a flat top grill and serves takeaway meals and snacks at popular spots around Roseau. I usually check first at the Old Market for the Cassava Man, or at the front of Whitchurch IGA grocery store. There is usually a line, but it’s well worth the wait. Most Dominicans also know that you can order and come back for pick up.
I stood in line three times in the last two weeks watching the Cassava Man put on what can only be described as a food show. The grinded cassava is slapped onto the grill from a bowl and made into a pancake, then cooked to perfection. The smells emanating around you as the flatbread turns brown on the grill are enticing. My favorite item on the menu is the saltfish wrap, but the dessert options, especially the raisin with ginger, are also delicious. And with every bite, you are assured of one thing, The Cassava Man brings you every piece of this Dominican history, with pure love, and it’s a bit off food heaven right there on the roadside in our island paradise.