Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's for Dinner?

What’s for Dinner?

When I was drawing a blank as to what to post for July and August, I decided to document my food for a day and share it with you. Delving into the culture a little more, I also decided to give making flour tortillas from scratch a go. I also documented that process and have pictures to show the process.

Now, what I’m going to share in pictures makes it looks a little more exciting than what I usually eat. I won’t lie – I’m lazy and cooking for one is not frequently on my list of things to do each day. Many times I just have a bowl of cereal (corn flakes, because their cheap and so am I) in the morning and make a pot of rice at lunch that lasts until dinner. (Oh, I know my carb intake is ridiculous…but I take my multivitamin to get some good stuff in me.)

I like to incorporate fruit into my breakfasts. Today I had an apple, a banana and a yogurt. Other times, like in my photo I really love a smoothie. From time to time peanut butter is available in the grocery store and a peanut butter/banana smoothie is so good. Other times peanut butter is scarce, so I’ll substitute yogurt. This is not at all a typical Honduran breakfast and very much what I have brought with my experience from home.

Some of what I put in one of my smoothies - Milk, yogurt, a banana and some ice.  Yummy!

Thanks to my dad for sending me down some Raider stadium cups, I can still rep the team I love!

Lunch and dinner tend to have many of the same components.  I try to incorporate more veggies during the later meals of the day.  Just now for lunch I had some rice, beans and a chicken breast – well most of one, I like to share with my dog and cat.  In the photo is a fairly typical Honduran lunch.  Red beans, scrambled egg, a hunk of semi-dry cheese, mantequilla (which I’ve explained before – it’s like a mixture of sour cream and butter, but with a consistency of a runny sour cream), chicken bologna (my own addition because I try to get additional protein where I can and my grocer didn’t have any decent chicken cuts that week) and tortillas.  Obviously, no meal is complete without a good dousing of hot sauce.  I put it on everything, since I don’t even bother trying to season my food.

Almost a ''plato típico''

And then I tried to make tortillas all by myself.  I had previously assisted my host mom once and she gave me the recipe.  Another time I helped form the tortillas and cook them with a friend here in site.  I figured all that was left was to put the two parts of the process together and try it myself.  My end results were not bad for my first time.  I experimented A LOT with the dough and kept adding flour and vegetable shortening until I got a consistency that seemed somewhat near correct.  The first part of the process is combining the ingredients: flour, water, baking soda, shortening and a pinch of salt.  I did it the true Honduran way and just made room on the countertop to make the dough there.  It’s a little tricky creating the crater of dry ingredients and preventing the water from making a mess once you start the mixing.  After the dough is made, it needs to set for about an hour.  I don’t really know why, but I was told to leave it be.  Once the dough has set for awhile it’s ready to make the tortillas.  Start by balling the dough and then flattening it.  Here some people are good with their hands and are able to do it just by palming the dough, not this girl.  I used the trick taught to me by my host sister.  Use two pieces of plastic and flatten the ball of dough using a plate.  After that the raw tortilla can go on the heat to cook.  Here many people use fogones (wood burning stoves) and the tortilla cooking process is quite fast.  I don’t have a fogón in my house and just used my skillet on the stove.  It took me forever to cook the tortillas, but I finally finished about two hours later.  My end result was a little thicker and bread-i-er than tortillas normally are.  I still give myself a good grade because they tasted good, just with a new texture!

The dry ingredients with the crater made, waiting for the water to be added.  And my pot of beans cooking in the background.

The dough as I mixed it all over my fancy concrete countertop.

Letting it sit for awhile.

Ready to start pulling off chunks to make each tortilla.

So, these got out of order - this is the last step of cooking the tortilla.

Putting the ball of dough between two pieces of plastic to flatten it with a plate.  The plastic prevents sticking.

Ready to cook.

And enjoy!  (I have no vanity and no shame of posting unflattering pictures of myself anymore.  Thank you Honduras!)

And that my friends was a little glimpse into the culinary side of my life here in Honduras.  Thanks for reading!

Hasta la proxima vez…

Since I've been AWOL

I must apologize for my slacker-ness in keeping my blog up to date. As July was ending, there was nothing that seemed worthy of writing about and August seems to be heading for the same fate. None the less, I feel a sense of responsibility to this ridiculous medium and the handful of people who choose to read it. Yet again, I will hit you with the ever popular recap and summary of what’s been going on.

I kicked off July with another trip to Roatan in the Bay Islands, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world. A fellow PCV/really good friend’s family came to visit, rented a house and I got to tag along for the week. The most exciting part was learning how to SCUBA dive and getting my Open Water certification. Not to say I did this all fearlessly. I freaked out during our initial sub-surface practice and could have easily stood up and been out of the water. It proves how powerful an emotion fear is and how it completely takes away your sense of reasoning. Other skills such as removing your mask while underwater, swimming without the mask and pretending your tank is out of air and using a buddy’s air source are scary, yet necessary. Overall, I’m glad I did it and look forward to diving more in the future. Just maybe not off my native Pacific Coast in that cold, murky water… It will never compare with the warm, clear waters here and the tropical reef, which is second only to the Great Barrier of Australia.

Work has been just a lot of charlas in the high school the last two months. One of the teachers and I have been giving a series of classes to the “seniors” about the importance of developing skills which are important in the work place. After finishing with the seniors we started with “sophomores” with the idea that they will have to teach the class to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders next year. That way it’s more sustainable, the main goal of Peace Corps work – I’ll be gone, but the information will perpetuate and benefit more people in the future.

This week is the last week of service for the group that came in ahead of mine, known to us as H15. That will make my group, H16, the most seasoned veterans of Peace Corps service here in Honduras. So many cliché statements come to mind, but the truth is a cliché – I can’t believe it’s gone by so fast! An H15 volunteer who lives near me will be passing many of her belongings on to those of us who will still be here in country for awhile. I’m so excited to be inheriting her double bed! For the last six months I’ve been sleeping on a twin size bed that my landlady is loaning to me. It will be nice to feel like an adult again and not like I’m back in the college dorms.

There was an anecdote of an experience yesterday that I wanted to share. On a more personal level the Peace Corps is humbling experience and I’m frequently reminded to get off my sassy horse. After traveling into the capital, Tegucigalpa, for a dental appointment Monday afternoon, I was told my crown wasn’t in from the lab yet and would have to stay over night (luckily Peace Corps picks up the tab on hotels). Having not brought a change of clothes, I sucked it up, stayed the night and got my dental appointment in the next morning. After the appointment I headed to the part of town where buses bound for my town are. Arriving at 11:45, I learned one bus wouldn’t leave until 1:30. Being very impatient and loathing that bus terminal, I headed to the one around the corner where I was told the mini-bus would be leaving at 12:30. Sweet! I thought I’d scored and was stoked to get back home sooner. Well, time ticked by and 1:00 rolled by, then 1:30. Sure, I was frustrated…but of anything I’ve learned in Honduras it’s that schedules are not to be followed and you better have gallons of patience. As it was approaching 2:00, I was getting angry and imagining how I could tell the office manager how horrible they run their business, how disrespectful they are of people and how I would storm out to take the other company’s bus at 2:30. Trying to keep my cool, I again asked what time the mini-bus would leave, “Pronto, dentro de quince minutos” they told me. Not believing that it would be neither soon, nor within fifteen minutes, I checked the time on my phone – almost 2:30. My anger diminished and I felt like a real fool. The words twelve and two sound very similar in Spanish – doce and dos. The man had told me 2:30 when I first arrived, but I heard 12:30 and created all that anger and resentment myself. Luckily, I hadn’t made a fool of myself by doing any of what I’d conjured up in my mind. It was just another lesson in humility and realizing, for the “umpteenth” time, that things will rarely meet my expectations here and I need to just chill out. To further illustrate the point, the mini-bus got a flat tire on the way back home and we were delayed another half hour. All I could do was laugh at myself and appreciate the lesson that was being taught to me.

Well, with all that in mind – I think I’ve put together a decent post for those of you reading. I appreciate you paying attention to this, thanks mucho!

Hasta la proxima vez…