I´ve been with my host family for over six weeks now, and this weekend I finally felt like part of the family. Sunday morning I told my mom I wanted to cook an American meal for them. I decided omelettes and home fries would be a good cross-cultural meal, nothing too ambitious or foreign. Once I am in my site I am going to try to cook for people more often, both so that I can offer hospitality as a way of gaining confianza (trust) and so that I can introduce some dietary novelties - green vegetables, for example. But for my first foray into cooking for Nicaraguans, I went for the easy sell. The omelettes were pretty simple - some queso coajada (I tried for mozarella and failed), onions, and oregano inside - and my mom helped me fry them, at which time I understood why my refried beans taste so delicious (hint: 3 letters, starts with O ends with L). To the papas fritas, I added some rosemary that I found at the plant nursery next door. Both the papas and the huevos were a hit. And of course they served it all with rice and beans and fried plantains.
After that lunch, my host sister-in-law offered to paint my toenails, which I took as a huge compliment since she´s been very shy with me up until now. I am now sporting a french manicure on my toenails. Unfortunately, all the colors she had were pretty much the same as the color of my skin, so you can´t see it too well.
It´s been a great cooking week all around, actually. On Friday we made mantequilla de mani (peanut butter). Even though this is a peanut-producing country, the butter is practically unknown. My family, especially my little host sister, was really into it. The soymilk and soy meat we made yesterday were also very popular. I´ve been in soy city since then, eating tortas de soya (deep fried soy patties), soy chorizo (sauteed soy with spices), and drinking soymilk with pinolillo, the national drink of Nicaragua.
To make pinolillo you toast whole corn and cacao and add cinnamon, cloves, and something they call pimiento de olor (odoriferous pepper). My mom mixed the ingredients in a bucket, then sent me to the mill to grind it. For ten cordobas (50 cents) the family with the mill ground it for me twice, leaving a fine powder that smelled wonderful. Back at home, we mixed it with soymilk and sugar. Pure deliciousness. Now that I´m cooking over a wood stove, taking things to the mill by myself, and drinking pinolillo, I am really starting to feel like I belong here.
Into it - dreaming in Spanish, very tight jeans like the Nicas wear, the rainy season (aka ¨winter¨)
Over it - flea bites, mildew