Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cooking in Guatemala

Cooking in Guatemala is easy and immensely enjoyable. 

Baking is almost impossible, so don't go expecting to roll out a new batch of cookies every week. If people have an oven, it is used to store dishes. 
Step #1: Go to the market. The market has more choices of fruits and vegetables than I've ever seen in one place. And they are truly fresh, most picked earlier that week or day, then brought in from the country-side. Choices, choices, choices. Cheap, cheap, cheap. All the food above I spend less than $8 buying!

Step #2: Go to the supermarket. Most Guatemalan cities have supermarkets where you can get most things. I love olive oil. I love being healthy when possible. Most Guatemalans cook with vegetable oil or lard. Lots of it. 

If you don't feel like slow cooking black beans you can buy them. In cans or bags. A small bag o' beans, a medium bag o' beans or a large bag o' beans. If you are a condiment user, you can also buy to your hearts lots of different sized bags. Don't forget about the hot dogs...for sale in mass quantities at both the market and the supermarket. 

Step #3: Cook! Yes, if you are not going to treat your raw veggies and fruits, but you are going to eat the skin, make sure to flash them in boiling water to kill any critters, bacteria, amoebas, or parasites that might be lurking on them. 

Step #4: Get daring. Try new things. (The above bowl is filled with small, intensely hot chilies that you buy in the market still in their husks). Talk to people at the markets. Ask them questions. Ask to try things. 

Ask your teachers or local friends to teach you how to cook a local dish...or two...or three. 
The above is a traditional soup that we made as a school activity. Served with tortillas, of course. 

Step #5: Enjoy!!!! Stray from the usual. Be creative with "usual" recipes or favorites. My friends Sarah, Monique and Robbie has Nacho Night at least three times a week. Mango salsas started evolving. Additions to the chips grew and grew.

If I would have continued living with a host family, I would not have been able to interact every other day with the sellers at the market. It enabled me to truly be a part of life in Xela. To be creative, to try new things, to ask new questions and to live like everyone else. Go shopping, bargain, cook, eat, be happy!

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