Sweet potato pudding dancehall queen style
She’s most famous for being a dancer and a fashionista, and her rich legacy in the dancehall is as much about her dance moves and costumes as it is about her lifestyle, which was drenched with heaping tablespoons of the savoury and exotic. And, two decades after her reign, and despite having ditched her sex symbol persona, the acknowledged Queen of the Dancehall, Carlene Smith, is still serving up delightful treats. This time around, it is an age-old Jamaican favourite, sweet potato pudding.
With this product, Smith, the mother of one, is eyeing the big picture, which involves not just selling slices, but the entire pudding, with her market being local, as well as overseas. Naturally, it is labelled Dancehall Queen Carlene Sweet Potato Pudding and in addition to the taste, another great thing is that this is a pandemic success story.
“I have perfected it over the years, as I have been baking this pudding from I was in my teens. My father was a vegetarian and the only sweet thing he really liked was the potato pudding, which had to be made specially for him since he doesn’t do dairy or eggs. And he would share it with friends, so it became a staple in our house,” Carlene told Food.
Although she generally kept her pudding within a circle of family, close friends, and friends of close friends, when she started hosting events at House of Dancehall on Cargill Ave in St Andrew in 2017, Carlene was encouraged to bake the pudding and sell it by the slice to patrons. Well, the pudding became the star of the show, so much so that people would drive to the location just to purchase the pudding. But she had to leave Jamaica to attend to business overseas, and she made sure to put somebody in place to sell the product, using their own pudding recipes
“But persons realised that it wasn’t my original pudding and the support sort of dwindled,” she recalled. Having stayed overseas longer than she had intended, when Smith returned to Jamaica she had to play catch-up and jumped straight into another venture, but COVID-19 clicked the ‘pause’ button on that. Being at home, Smith had time on her hands, and with her niece and nephew in the US clamouring for her sweet potato pudding, and her pudding fans in Jamaica at home and wanting a healthy, sweet treat, she decided to let COVID “tan ah yuh yard” campaign work in her favour. She decided to stay home and bake potato pudding and sell. Smith knocked heads with friends Angela Thame and Sonya Stewart ,and cooked up a plan to supply the market.
“I used to deliver puddings to my daughter Crystal’s former coach, Okeile Stewart of Aisle 876, and he called me one day and said, ‘Listen, this thing can go further.’ He helped me with the overseas part of it, because I don’t know anything about export and that kind of stuff. But, before that, I made sure that all the boxes were checked. I applied for and got a food handler’s permit, and I also sorted out my tax registration, because as long as I am earning, I firmly believe that I must pay my taxes,” Carlene declared.
Without giving away her secret recipe, Carlene shared that she uses organic sweet potatoes, and her supplier also has close connections in the music industry she is former manager and producer Jade Lee, who operates Little Orchard Farms in Linstead. “I like to support women in general, and it’s a plus that Jade also has dancehall affiliations. The only issue right now is that the whole heap of rain, recently, was bad for the sweet potato crop, and I refuse to use non-organic potatoes,” Smith told Food.
But the award-winning cook, who really doesn’t like to cook, is resilient and ready to overcome any hurdle. “I really enjoy baking these puddings and I will stay up all night if necessary. Actually, I like baking much more than cooking. I can cook, and have won cooking competitions, such as Bubble Di Pot, when Heather Little-White was still with us. And I have done other celebrity cook-offs for charity and won, but baking is my passion,” Smith confessed.
Quite proud of her product and its packaging, Smith shipped off her first batch overseas this week and is gleefully anticipating that she will soon have her Instagram page overflowing with orders.