Thursday, September 18, 2008

Breaking the food bank

I apparently had four more noteworthy meals before I left Paraguay. I'm afraid that I didn't enjoy them enough, because since I've gotten back to the U.S.--I've got to admit--I've suffered some pretty sever sticker shock: $2.50 for a bunch of organic cilantro at whole food is just absurd (granted it was whole foods, but still). In Paraguay, an equivalent bunch of organic cilantro would cost 20 cents. Food prices really seem to have gone noticeably up since I have been gone. I spent more than five dollars on a single heirloom tomato! It's amazing how much it costs to feed yourself these days, and I realized how much I've been taking my time in Paraguay for granted. It is easy to complain or lament the lack of certain things, like sweet peas or good avocados. But little did I realize that, when I got back to the U.S., I wouldn't even be able to afford an avocado (I've seen them selling for $2.00-2.50)! I've vowed to better appreciate all of the fresh, organic, and affordable produce that is available in Paraguay. Part of it is, of course, the fact that my dollars are worth more than guaranĂ­es (though that advantage seems to be decreasing daily) and that even my meager graduate student income puts me toward the upper end of the income distribution. Still, I'm curious if you compared the cost of food and produce, adjusting for purchasing power, whether food would still not be cheaper in Paraguay. Any economists out there interested in checking this out for me? It's definitely worth knowing, because this is what Paraguayans will give up if they let the countryside get bulldozed and covered by soybean plantations. At any rate, I decided we better eat up while we are in Paraguay, because we might be on a diet of beans and rice when we get back to the U.S.

1. Salad of lima beans, sweet corn, radish, and roasted red pepper with pesto. Notice the nasturtium garnish. This was really a delicious and fresh salad, and I found corn that is actually sweet (not starchy) at the supermarket!
2. Dduk with kim chi octopus and crab stix. I used some surumi sticks that are meant for sushi in this korean inspired seafood soup. It was very good and spicy.
3. Pork soup with mung bean noodles and cilantro. I used the last bit of ecoagro pork in this soup. I boiled the bones with the meat left on it with lemon grass, ginger, garlic, and some leek scraps and pho spices for the broth. I added fish sauce and served it with cilantro and basil. However, we decided that it's time to let this basil plant go to seed, because it's getting to that bitter, woody stage that always makes me think the plant is taking its revenge on us for delaying its reproduction by manufacturing lethal, bitter poisons to kill us.
4. Mixed green salad, and cheese plate. This was made with produce from the agroshopping. A new friend, fellow fulbright scholar, and researcher of agricultural associations was visiting Paraguay from Brazil and wanted to check out the agroshopping. I was more than happy to oblige, and while we didn't have a chance to put together an elaborate meal, the weather and the opportunity was perfect for a really fresh salad and a cheese bored. I tore up some purple basil in this salad, along with arugula and two kinds of lettuce, green onion, and cherry tomatoes and dressed it with a classic vinaigrette. The cheese plate was all local cheeses and included a blue cheese, a buttery cow's-milk with black pepper, and a third on I can't remember the name of (I need to start writing these down!) but was a strong, ripened cow's-milk cheese. All three were pretty good. The blue cheese (and I'm not usually a big fan) was very creamy and pleasant flavored. The salami was also very good.


Chris said...

Yes, enjoy the cheap produce in Paraguay as long as you can. I try to shop of Whole Foods just for "happy" meat and fish, but it's a total pain in the ass to go shopping two or three different places trying not to break the bank.
There was a cool article in the trib this weekend that made me think of you. I want to borrow the Omnivores Dilemma from you now!

Anonymous said...

Gustavo -- I've recently heard of ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE by B. Kingsolver. Have you read this book? If so, did you like it? Sally F. (Chris' aunt)

YH said...

Why? O why does everything have to be about food?

Gustavo said...

Sally, I've heard the title but I don't know anything about it. If you pick it up and enjoy it, please let me know.

Gustavo said...


This is a food blog! Do you hate eating?

Daanish said...

cool food,making me hungry!

Lindsay Lee said...

I returned from Paraguay last August. I love your great recipes, especially of Chipa. Do you have any other great Paraguayan recipes? Along with that, what do you suggest as a substitute for queso paraguayo?

Thanks for the great site!

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