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Opal Rowe, owner of Stush Patties.Handout

Like most Jamaicans, I love patties – sometimes for a snack, or for lunch. One particular evening a few years ago I came home and wanted to eat something that was really comforting but not heavy. It occurred to me that I was craving a patty.

But not a regular one that you’d find in the usual places on-the-go. I could taste it in my mouth, but in the moment I couldn’t figure out which flavour I was thinking of. I Googled “gourmet patties” and couldn’t find anything – the normal suggestions kept coming up. I knew those patties, but it wasn’t what I was searching for.

It lingered in my mind for quite a long time, and I kept on searching – and it got me thinking about patties in general.

There are many places, like in Scarborough, Ont., for instance, where you can get patties in locations like the subway. For this reason, many people think they’re widely available. But there’s a lot of people who don’t take the subway, or don’t travel to those particular stations. I started thinking about the whole patty industry, and I realized that you normally have to go out of your way to buy them. And you can’t really take them anywhere – you have to eat them right away.

I thought there was room for improvement. As great and as wide a variety as we have, this was an area that was lacking. Let’s say you go to a party – you hardly ever see patties. You see tacos, you see samosas. I wanted to change this.

I’d never made patties before, and never seen a patty made. It’s something that a typical Jamaican would not have seen. I usually liken it to croissants. In France, everywhere you go you see them, but I’m sure every French household doesn’t make them.

I do a lot of cooking, and I sometimes crave something that I have never made before ­­– but I know what should be in it and how it should taste. There were many iterations, of course. There’s no school I could go to and there’s no recipe per se, especially when it came to a vegan patty. It was about learning from scratch – understanding what the different types of flour and ingredients are, and the advantages of using one over the other. There were times that I thought, I can’t make this, it’s not working. But over time, it evolved.

A jerk-chicken patty was a no brainer, and I thought of a stew filling with lentils and vegetables. I had to convince myself to do a beef version; I thought, nobody is going to take you seriously if you don’t do beef! The jerk-soy recipe was interesting to develop. We also have an ackee recipe made with salted tofu, but I don’t think that ackee – which is the national fruit of Jamaica – is widely known.

There are still many people who don’t know about patties in general, especially new immigrants. It’s a whole market that has opened up for me. We’ve had people pairing our patties with salsa, and Indian people serving them with their own sauces. I’ve even heard of somebody who served it for breakfast with egg.

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"I usually liken it to croissants. In France, everywhere you go you see them, but I’m sure every French household doesn’t make them," says Stush Patties owner Opal Rowe.Handout

The reaction to Stush has been amazing. I was at a trade show recently and spoke to people who’d never seen a product like this before and loved watching their faces ­– their expression of enjoyment and “wow.” People usually view patties like other kinds of fast food: something that they enjoyed before, like eating a hot dog at a memorable event, and that is not necessarily healthy. I want people to be able to have that nostalgic feeling but no guilt.

And with our branding, I wanted to reflect the spirit of Jamaica in a way that’s not distinctly Jamaican – it’s engaging, and it crosses all cultures. It’s happy and fun – and that’s something all of us want to be, right?

As told to Odessa Paloma Parker

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