Food for Thought

November 30, 2009 at 11:43 pm Leave a comment

Baking success! And disaster! Where I last left you, I was preparing a baking “class” with my sitemate Kristina for a local women’s support group run by another PCV. We traveled up to day before, as bus access was limited and met with the women the night before to plan the next day. Here in Honduras one has to get pretty thrifty. These women don’t have much, let alone baking pans, measuring cups or spoons. We asked every one to bring a plastic bottle (there certainly is no shortage of coke/pepsi/banana tropical bottles here, trash is everywhere) so we could cut off the top to make in-situ measuring cups with a sharpie.  We would be baking the banana bread in empty sardine cans and the chocolate cake in frying pans. That night, Kristina and I wrote the recipes on large charla paper to post and was dreaming of delicious bread, cake and vanilla icing.

The next morning, the 3 of us woke up, scarfed down some breakfast, and made our way down to where we would be baking. We had specified 8 o’clock en punto, which really means 8:30, but the ladies didn’t start showing up until 9. And of course, at 9, a neighbor announced that she had made us breakfast. Saying no to Honduran food is like insulting somebody’s poor grandma, so we managed to fit eggs, frijolitos, tortillas, and queso seco in our already full bellies, soon to be made fuller from baked goods. After breakfast, the woman of the house fired up her horno, a large adobe dome oven. To heat it up, you throw a ton of firewood and corn husks in, light it on fire, burn the hell out of it, then take it out to let the oven cool down. You can fit about 50 cakes pans in it it’s so large. We made the batter and filled the sardine cans with no problem. And then an amazing thing happened; the women were fighting over who got to lick the batter bowl! Talk about a cross-culture, eye-opening experience! The bread came out beautifully, in about 15 minutes instead of the normal 50 minutes. Damn that oven was hot. While the bread was cooling, we started on making the chocolate cake. Kristina and I had test run a chocolate cake recipe a few days prior using this “choco-banano” chocolate that is readily available down here and cheap. It comes in a brick form of solid chocolate with sugar and oil already mixed in. You are supposed to dip frozen bananas in it (very popular down here). We were thinking about sustainability and how these women couldn’t really afford a 225 lempira ($12) box of Hershey’s Cocoa Powder. The recipe in Kristina’s electric oven turned out well, not the greatest, but it worked and it was chocolately enough. So when we duplicated it out in the campo, who would of thought it would go horribly wrong. The batter, of course, tasted delicious. I was batting the little children away from the bowls like flies. This time, we placed the batter in frying pan molds and some rectangular molds. As we were watching the chocolate cakes bake, we were also making a delicious creamy vanilla icing (with margarina, I know it sounds gross, but it was actually pretty good). I went to go check on the cakes, and almost fell over. The tops had burned, and all of the oil in the cake had seeped to the top. It looked like black molten lava vomit. And, as many of you may know, I am pretty sensitive to my baking (I went into a fit of rage, then cried last year when my one of my pie crusts didn’t turn out at Christmas). I summoned Kristina over to confirm what I was seeing. It was downright embarrassing! We took out the cakes and the women had such confused looks on their faces. We tried to ice them, after scraping the oil off the top, but they looked DISGUSTING (hence no pictures of the cakes). The women, however, took it in stride, they ate some, and took some pieces home to their husbands. They also decided to sell their banana bread to themselves(?) for 6 lemps a pop, which Kristina and I later worked out to be breaking even. So much for sustainability. I later researched the mishap and decided that the horno was waaaaay to hot for delicate cake baking. Nonetheless, the women had a ton of fun, and thanked us graciously. I guess you win some and lose some. I guess I need to practice baking in those hornos. . .

And more of the map. . . as you can see, it has been coming along nicely, with a few mishaps here and there. Im pretty sure we lost a few of the Great Lakes, Muaritania’s borders (a country in east Africa) were taken over by an yellow invasion of Mali, it’s western neighbor, and Hawaii has now acquired more islands in the south pacific. Painting with the girls is a bit hectic, but nonetheless fun. Four girls armed and ready with one color ready to paint whatever they see. I remind them that they have to check with me before they paint anything. The first day of painting almost lead to disaster because I forgot to check Europe. . . . . the pencil lines looked like spaghetti, ironically Italy was intact. We got the big guys out of the way like Antarctica, Russia, Australia, etc. These also made good projects for the painting impaired. We still have quite a bit of work to do, so I will post more pics to show the process.

Thanksgiving— who said Honduras doesn’t celebrate T-day? Thirteen of us squished into a house for a few days and had a feast fit for a king! Not much explaining to do here—my friend Rachel meticulously planned out the menu for the whole weekend, and even managed to make bagels for us the day after! I made my standard apple and pumpkin pies as well (the crust this time was OK, however, Honduran butter just isn’t the same is is strangely neon yellow). An added bonus was that I got to pitch and sleep in a tent everynight . . . *sigh*. . oh how I miss the states sometimes.

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Peace Corps Thanksgiving Ta da!

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