Friday, November 18, 2011

Help Us Eat Our Veggies!

Kevin and I hit the Peace Corps foodie jackpot with our tiny commuter town.

Almost more than any other challenge, I hear my fellow volunteers complain about the availability of fresh vegetables in their sites.  Fruit grows in excess (and often goes to waste), but variety all but always only comes with personal gardens and lucky finds on veggie runs to bigger towns.  It comes down to demand.  Paraguay has some of the most fertile land on Earth, but why grow a crop that no one wants to eat?

As a country, Paraguay tends to favor beige meals.  Mandioca, breaded meat, pasta, cornmeal, and rice all contribute to a dinner table lacking color; color otherwise known as vegetables.  When the green (or orange or red or purple) stuff actually makes it to the table, it usually arrives beyond well done and with all the nutrients cooked out.  Although families will serve a little cabbage or shredded leaf lettuce along side lunch, most kids and adults do not eat three to five servings of vegetables in a week- let alone daily.

Upon arriving in our community, Kevin and I could not believe our good fortune to find the area agricultural high school just a few blocks away from our new home.  Kids come from a few towns over to focus their studies on farming, both raising crops and animal husbandry.  Students learn the tricky business of growing food on an experimental field adjacent to their classrooms.  Flush with leafy greens and hearty gourds, we quickly learned that much of this crop ends up eaten by animals.

Since traditionally Paraguayans do not eat a lot of vegetables, many have no idea how to prepare them.  In an effort to turn this around, the director of the school invited Kevin and I to teach a class regarding healthy eating and incorporating vegetables into daily diets.  Classes resume in February, so we will spend the next couple months experimenting with different main dishes, sides plates, sauces, breads, soups, and casseroles.

And we need your help.  Please send in your favorite veggie recipes and we’ll try and work them into our syllabus.  The following ingredients are readily available at the school:  

Milanesa de carne, mashed potatoes with mayonnaise, and sopa Paraguaya, with tomatoes and onions.
black beans

chili pepper
green leaf lettuce
green onion
green peas
green pepper
mandioca (a denser cousin to potato)
orange lime (less tangy than green limes)
red beans
red leaf lettuce
soy bean
white onion

As always, thank you for your support.  Please send suggestions via email or in the comment section under this post.  As we try out ideas with local ingredients and taste tasters, we will feature recipes and results on this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment