As part of his project for the 2015 Ghetto Biennale, the Australian artist Thomas C. Chung prepared Pan Patat, a not overly sweet dessert that he describes as “half-pudding, half-bread.” On several occasions, with various local collaborators, he made and served large batches of this traditional Haitian dish. It was a kind of community-building exercise and a rejoicing in the shared experience of eating that very much aligned with my intentions in asking visitors to the Radyo Shak to choose and explain a recipe. It was the only recipe delivered in English.
Ingredients for Thomas C. Chung’s Pan Patat
8 pounds Sweet Potatoes
1 stick Butter
Step us through the process. Once you’ve gotten your ingredients together, how does it go?
We start wth the peeling of the sweet potatoes, which works with the proverb I’m dealing with in my project, “in times of famine, sweet potatoes have no skin,” so the fact that we are peeling them off is just recognizing the state we’re in. We do that, we grate the sweet potatoes once the skins are all peeled, we grate that all to a very fine mush. We move on to the coconut. We crack it open, we take out the meat, we grate the coconut, we squeeze out the coconut to get the coconut milk, then we just mix all the other ingredients I mentioned before, and we bake it.
Tell us about cooking times and temperatures, or are those things meaningless in this context?
I think in this context it’s very flexible, it depends on each person’s oven or stove. We once went to a bakery to ask them if they would bake it but they rejected our “day of” baking.
The people here that you’ve served it to, how have they reacted to it? Is it familiar, or astonishing?
So, in that sense, I’ve asked the elderly artists here to give me their opinion, which is the most valuable, because they understand what it really tastes like, and they’ve given me the A-OK and the big thumbs up!