Toronto parole officer starts up side hustle to honour her mother
After a Rexdale parole officer in Toronto lost her mother, she continued her traditions of baking to honour her.
Peshy's Bakery was started up in 2020 by Tisha Ragwen. She named it for her mother Rupesh, who immigrated from Guyana and whose nickname was Peshy. The concept focuses in on Guyanese sweet treats.
Her motto for the project that is "comfort food inspired by tradition": think pineapple pastries reminiscent of pineapple tarts eaten in Singapore during Lunar New Year.
"My mom's name was Rupesh and those that loved her called her Peshy. She passed away in 2018 after a long struggle with breast cancer. This loss was monumental to me and our family. She was my guide, my leader and my ultimate taste tester. Baking has always been my form of expression and food has been such an integral part of my life," Ragwen tells blogTO.
"My dad still makes pine tarts, I learned to make mithai from my grandma and sponge cake was my mom's specialty. I never dared to make this cake and after she passed away I started to try. It took me a year to get it right and I knew I got it when my brother said it brought a tear to him after he ate a piece."
Ragwen has been a probation and parole officer in Rexdale for the past 15 years but has been baking since she was young.
"My parents instilled the idea of making sure as a brown woman that I was educated and so I took the route that made sense at the time. Baking, however, was always my pastime. My mom was my very best friend and my biggest supporter and she, through the years, encouraged me to pursue going to school to learn more about pastry and I did that part-time while working," says Ragwen.
"After she passed away I didn't know how to get back into the kitchen, it all felt meaningless. I made myself take a course at George Brown to force me to be in the kitchen for a night doing a chocolate class which up until this point terrified me. It was just the thing to get me started again."
That was when she started drawing from memories of home, her childhood and her mother and making the pastries she had grown up with.
"Pine tarts and tennis rolls and plait bread and chip chip with spelt flour and less sugar," says Ragwen.
Right now she preps and bakes both before and after work, and sources ingredients during her lunch hour.
"My job can be fast-paced and intense and baking has always been my solace, it helps me to feel calm and is a good way to let go of my day," says Ragwen.
Peshy's participated in Smorgasburg in Toronto over the summer and Ragwen plans to participate in more markets. You can get her pine tarts at Kiss My Pans, where you can order the goods online for delivery. She dreams of having a brick-and-mortar store in the future.
"Peshy's honours the most important woman in my life," says Ragwen. "It's love for family, food and love for our Guyanese culture."
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