Comida guatemalteca

In one of my “Year Four” posts I mentioned that I didn’t take many pictures of food this time.  Several people have asked what kind of food “they eat there”, so I have been back through photos and come up with a collection.  I can’t remember all the names, but I know there has never been anything I didn’t like!!

After my first visit in 2015 I purchased a small paperback book from Amazon called “Favorite Recipes from Guatemala” by Laura Lynn Woodward.  It is only 80 pages long, but I have used it extensively.  (I checked Amazon today and it is selling for $70.58 – previously it was listed for $400 +, but I know I paid less than $20 🙂 )

The “Featured Photo” at the top of the page is Fiambre, the traditional dish served on November 1 in commemoration of Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) which is actually eaten on what we know as All Saints Day).   The day after we arrived (yes, it was planned that way!) was November 1st and we set off for Santiago Sacatapequez to enjoy the festivities at the Giant Kite Festival, held here and in Sumpango, every November 1st.  Since this post is about food, you will have to go back four years to see my pictures of  barriletes gigantes (or maybe wait until 2019 – maybe!).  The whole town of Santiago was abuzz with excitement – crowds, street vendors, children, adults, dogs and donkeys.  All I knew in advance was that kites would be flying, but I was a little unprepared to find that the festival took place in a graveyard.  Not only that, but families were enjoying picnics on the graves of their departed loved ones.  Marigolds were planted all over the graves, and the scent of the flowers being trampled remains with me today.  Fiambre is basically a salad which can be made of meat and vegetables – ingredients are limited only by availability and imagination.  Families often leave a dish on the grave when they leave, especially if the deceased enjoyed Fiambre in earthly life.  That evening we dined on Fiambre made by the mother of a friend of the family, and truly delicious it was!

Many foods, including tortillas, beans, tamales, and paches are still made in the ancient way using clay clay cooking implements over a woodfire.   The speed and accuracy of these ladies making street tortillas in Santiago was amazing!

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The Mayan people were, are still are, “The People of Corn”.  Ixim Winaq.   In Mayan mythology, the last human beings on earth were formed by the Creator Mother out of the oil and dough of ground corn and then they were given their life’s breath through the tobacco smoke of the Creator Father.   Being corn people, Mayans eat and drink corn at every meal as long as they live.  Drink? I hear you say – atole is a corn gruel, usually flavored with one or more of the following: chile, sugar, mint, cinnamon or chocolate.

Breakfast is my favorite meal (well, so is lunch, and maybe dinner!!!).  I love huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs) and black beans, plantains and white cheese …………  (I remember when I was in Panama I was so disappointed not to see any black beans!!!).  The bread is amazing, not at all like American bread (well, nothing is like that!) – it is almost sweet, but not sweet, and the texture is wonderful.

Lunch:  we often ate out while we were exploring.  The quality of restaurants is really first class, but even the “snack-type” places offer extremely good food.

Fruit – oh! wonderful fruit.  Bananas, plantains, papayas, jocotes, rambutans, apricots, peaches – you name it, it is there!  (Oh, and don’t forget coconuts  from the Pacific coastal area!!!)

Vegetables – yes, veggies too!  Lots of different kinds of squash, including “Guisquil” (Mirliton in Louisiana, Chayote in Texas), and the usual  beans, onions, carrots, etc.

And my most favorite salsa of all – Chirmol.  There are lots of recipes for this, but the one I make is:

6 tomatoes, 1 small chopped onion, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint, 1/4 cup warm water.  I teaspoon lemon juice.  Salt to taste.  1/2 chile serrano chopped fine.  (You can change herbs as you wish – like adding Cilantro, more hot peppers, etc.)

Toast the tomatoes in a skillet, turning often until dark and the skin separates.  When cool enough to handle, peel them then mix with the remaining ingredients and crush with a wooden spoon to make a runny sauce.

And drinks!!!  Horchata ( Rice – and sometimes peanut ), Refresco de Tamarindo, Refresco Rosa de Jamaica (Hibiscus), Refresco de Carambola (Starfruit), Refrisco de Piña.  And Rum, of course.  And the best coffee in the world (according to me and many others!)

They don’t call Guatemala the land of Eternal Spring for nothing 🙂

Buen Provecho!!!

 

Guatemala: Year Four, Day Nine

“D” (for Departure) Day has dawned.  It would be sad except there will be so many wonderful memories.  After breakfast we said our  goodbyes, loaded up and set off for the airport.  We arrived in perfect time, checked in, shopped, ate, and boarded our plane.  Not really much need for words for this travel day, except to say we left two behind for an additional few days, one was booked to Houston via Miami, which left five of us on the direct flight to Houston.  It was a pretty uneventful journey, with everyone checking in to let us all know when they arrived home.

So here are a few final photos, at Guatemala International Airport, up in the air over Guatemala, approaching the Gulf of Mexico after flying across Mexico, and approaching Houston.

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Thank you for coming on this journey with me – now it is time to start planning for 2019!

Guatemala 2018: Day Eight

Sunday, day of rest!!  We needed some rest after our busy visit.  After breakfast some of us went to a church up the road, at the Dream Center where they have the after-school program and we helped the kids plant the two raised beds.  Shining Light Abroad Ministries.   Some went in to the town to the Catholic Church, and some stayed in bed!!!

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Robbie and I walked back down to Xejuyu.   After lunch we all went our separate ways, some to ride up the mountain for one last time, some to relax by the pool, the more energetic were going to do the “Ropes” course (but I don’t know if they did!)  I had a nice long visit with some family members and went up with them to feed the puppies, came back down and visited some more up in the loft over the dining room.

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Soon it was time to pack the suitcases ready for the morning, a task that never takes as long at the end of a visit!   I always paint my suitcases front, back, top, bottom and sides to make it easier to see them coming to the carousel!!!

Guatemala: Year Four, Day Seven

Day Six’s post was wordy and had too many pictures!  Today’s will be perhaps less wordy, but maybe more pictures!  If you have read my previous blog posts you will know that I have always had a fascination with volcanoes, and today one of the items on my bucket list was fulfilled.  After breakfast three of us, with our trusty friend, expert and guide set off to “conquer” the active Volcan de Pacaya.  The other members of our group  went off to Antigua for more sightseeing and shopping.

On our way, taking the road to the Pacific coast, we passed by many areas that were devastated by the violent and deadly eruption of Volcan de Fuego (the Volcano of Fire) on June 3rd, 2018.  In the path of the lahar and pyroclastic flows were “sticks” of trees, with the occasional miraculous green tree, still living.  Ruins of buildings, bridges and roads destroyed, but in just three months repairs, rebuilding and restoration were taking place.  In a land of earthquakes and active volcanic eruptions, the cycle of life has a different rhythm.  We stopped to take photos of Fuego on the way, and the care started making noises like the transmission was going out …………. it got us to where we were going – the base for the ascent of Pacaya!

Fuego and Acatenango
Volcan de Fuego on the left, Acatenango on the right.

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The way up to this point was difficult – about a third of the way up when my leg muscles were screaming and I thought I couldn’t breathe any more, I gave up and summoned the horse which had been following “just in case”.   I could have taken a horse from the base of the climb but didn’t want to look like a wimp 🙂  What a relief it was, and the rest of the climb was most enjoyable.  Further up I felt better about it when Robbie also hailed a horse, and she even got to give a ride to a tired little boy belonging to other climbers!   It was amazing to see the lava flowing, and the variety of flowers growing up in the lava.

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And here’s me flying my Sussex (England) Flag, being photo-bombed by a “Longhorn” 🙂

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We walked along the ridge a bit to take photos and and admire the view, then started the long descent.  No horses this time, and the first thing I did was slip up in the damp volcanic ash in a most undignified manner!  With the aid of freshly broken tree branches to use as walking sticks, we made it safely to the bottom, only to find that the restaurant at the hotel was closed!  The car engine sounded normal, so we elected to head back to Xejuyu.  The traffic was dreadful, at a standstill in a couple of places which resulted in us taking a detour or two.

After a late lunch/early dinner, we enjoyed swapping stories with the other members of our group who had gone back to Antigua.

Guatemala: Year Four, Day Six

Early start this morning – traveled to Tecpan, where we had breakfast at Deli Paulinos (with the crooked chimney!)
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and did some “tourist shopping’ before the vendors were completely set up!  Turning left off the CA1 (the highway that traverses Central America from the bottom all the way up to Alaska, with a few detours on the way) once again we were going “uphill” into the village of Tecpan and the site of the ancient city of Iximche, which was settled in 1470 by the Maya-Kaqchikel as the capital of a wide ranging territory.  The city was first settled under the rule of lords Jun Toj and Wuqu’B’atz, on the plateau of the mountain Ratz’am Ut.  The name Iximche is the original one and its literal translaton is “Maize Tree”.  “Tecpan Goatemala” is the name with which the Tlaxcalteca people identified the city in their Nahuatl language.  The Tlaxcaltecas were natives of highland Mexico and came with the Spanish in the 16th century.  The country’s own name derives from the translation of Guatemala, which means “Place of Trees.”  (This information taken from the brochure available at the Visitor Center.)

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This site is nowhere near as “imposing” as other Mayan ruins such as Tikal in Guatemala or Chichen Itza in Mexico, but because there are not tourists swarming all over the place, there is a peace and inner feeling of belonging.  There is a nice museum which has evolved over the past couple of years into a fine source of information with artifacts and historical displays.  Ichimche is almost completely surrounded by deep ravines, which helped to keep the inhabitants safe from invaders!  There are still sacrificial sites in use today,  (not for humans, as far as I know!) and one of the large sacrificial stones was covered with bees lapping up the resins left behind.  Last year when we went to visit, the site was closed because of rain, but the year before we were able to witness sacrificial ceremonies from a respectful distance.

There are twenty-one Mayan languages spoken today in Guatemala, with Kaqchikel being one of the four with the largest number of speakers (thought to be about half a million, living in the central highlands between the Capital, Guatemala City, and Lake Atitlán.)  There are many language schools in Antigua Guatemala to learn Spanish, but also now some to learn Kaqchikel!  There are even tutorials on YouTube!
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And so to the next part of our day – the drive to beautiful Lake Atitlán.  It is often called the most beautiful lake in the world, and I have to agree!  The lake is surrounded by volcanoes and steep hills, and is at least 320 m deep. It is 18 km x 12 km at its widest point, and the water changes color depending on time of day – a wide range of blues, greys, greens.  Some villages high up in the hills are accessible only by boat and the lively town of Panajachel, is a fun place to set out across the waters.  In the mornings the lake is usually calm, but by afternoon the Xocomil wind blows across the lake, producing white capped waves.

The legend of the Xocomil originated when these lands were inhabited by the extraordinary civilization of the Maya. Historians say two kingdoms lived in the region of what is today Sololá, a city located overlooking the lake. The two kingdoms were ruled by king, queens, princesses and princes and were at constant war.  One day a prince and princess from the two different kingdoms met and fell in love. When their respective kings uncovered the romance, they condemned the relationship and prohibited from seeing one another. Nevertheless, the young love struck adolescents did not accept the imposed separation and met where they had always met previously, on the lake. The kings found them and sent warriors to bring them back. However, tragedy struck and the two lovers drowned.  Legend says their two souls have lived since that time in the water. Each afternoon their souls come out to dance and make love causing the winds and heavy white caps to stir up the calm waters of the lake. The lake at this time each day is hard to navigate and most ferry trips and pleasure trips are scheduled for before noon or after 4 pm.

This year we were too late to take a boat ride, so instead visited the beautiful botanical gardens of Hotel Atitlán and ate lunch there.

In the past we have visited different villages by boat, and been dropped off at the hotel’s pier – now that’s an experience to make anyone feel like royalty!!!  The walk up to the restaurant through the gardens is guaranteed to delight, and they have a really nice gift shop!  After lunch we discovered a part of the gardens we hadn’t previous seen, and after a nice little chat with a pair of geese, and watching a cat make its way out of the aviary housing toucans, a peacock and other birds by flattening itself out and squeezing under the fence, we set out for home

Guatemala: Year Four, Day five

As I write this it occurs to me that I might have my days and activities a bit mixed up, but unless you were there with me you really wouldn’t know!  I just want to share my experiences with you, and writing it down keeps my memories alive!

We had a  much more relaxed day today – all about plants!  San Jose hydroponics/greenhouse farm is just down the road – next door, in fact.  It is always a pleasure to visit here because each year I see many changes, improvements and expansion.  Produce is grown here for export, and there is new equipment being set up for the hydroponic part of the operation.  It is fun to snack as we stroll, and of course veggies straight from the ground always taste so good!

And, of course, we always go home with some fresh veggies for the night’s dinner!!!

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Next up a treat for the lovers of tropical plants, and volcano views.  According to internet research, seven hundred species of orchids out of 1,000 found in Guatemala are actually native to Guatemala, and many of them are growing here in the trees, in baskets, on the ground, all blooming at different times of the year.  Also “next door”, this is a magical place.  Aside from the orchids, there are monstera deliciosas (swiss cheese plants) actually in bloom (you don’t see that on your ordinary house plants!!), staghorn ferns dripping from the trees, and many other surprises as shown on this slide show.

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Back at the farm we learned how to make Sofia’s Chirmol, and cooked the vegetables from this morning in a delicious batter for tonight’s dinner.

Guatemala: Year Four, Day Four

This morning we rode up the mountain (some walked!) to the village of El Durazno to teach the little kids about pollinators, butterflies, and provided tasty and fun snacks.  The program was held in the church, and there were even mothers with babes in arms who came to watch.  One of our lessons was on “symmetry” and the boys and girls alike enjoyed coloring paper butterflies on sticks and trying to match up the left with the right!

 

Just around the corner was the village school.  The kids were all outside in the courtyard, having finished their lessons for the morning.  They were so excited to see us, and all wanted  the leftover butterflies.  We didn’t do a program there this time, and made our way back down to the farm on foot.

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In the afternoon we presented a forestry program to the farm kids – first they listened to a talk on the importance of trees and why we need them, then we walked to the site where planting holes were already dug and showed them how to plant the trees.

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After the talk and planting the trees, they washed up and ate healthy snacks.  All the kids were presented with a certificate of participation before they left, and promised to come back and check on their trees and take care of them!!!   What a busy day – we all slept well that night!!!

Guatemala Year Four, Day three

No, this morning I did not attempt to walk, but was still up by the coffee pot at 7:00 am when the fit young(er) ones were getting ready to set off up the mountain!

After breakfast we toured the organic gardens from whence the veggies come!  Four years ago this was the beginning of a Work in Progress, and we conducted a planting workshop for the kids of farm workers in the first section.  We have had some fun times with these kids, and it has been a joy to see them grow!  The gardens have grown too, over the years.  We walked a little way up the mountain and “inspected” the coffee plants, visited the vermicompost operation (all those wiggly worms doing such a great job in preparing rich soil from waste veggies etc. to incorporate back into the beds.   One of the highlights of this morning was the sampling of the home made popsicles, followed by a trip up the mountain in “vehicles” (I don’t know what they are called – four wheelers?  Nope, all vehicles have four wheels; golf carts? Nope, no golf courses around; ATVs?  Whatever, here’s a video of the ride up.

These are the mountains of adventure!!

We had lunch at the farm, then in the afternoon headed up the hill to the Dream Center.  This is a facility that offers after school activities and learning to kids from neighboring villages who are brought in by buses.  First we helped serve lunch, then each child came outside and individually read to us – high level of reading ability!  Back inside they gathered and sang a couple of songs that they had learned to sing in English!  The last activity of the day was to take them out to the gardens, to learn how to plant and care for vegetable starts in the two raised beds previously prepared.  We finished up the afternoon with games and visiting while waiting for the bus to pick them up.

 

This evening we enjoyed “happy hour” by the hammocks before going up for dinner!

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Guatemala Year Four, Day two

Xseqär!  Good Morning, in Kaqchikel.  More about languages later, in another post.  Several of us met at 7:00 am by the coffee pot (home grown coffee beans of course!) and set out for the ritual morning “walk”.  A year ago I had intended to “get in shape” ready for this trip since I hoped to hike Volcan Pacaya, but of course it didn’t happen (the getting in shape part.)  So, not very far from the house my breath became labored and my muscles started complaining.  I decided it would be wise to take the low road and meander on back to the Finca taking my own time.  Here are a selection of photos I took on the way back for breakfast.

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I love breakfast here, and of course the coffee, and fruit juices.  I don’t often remember to take pictures of food, but there may be some somewhere in the photo files!    We left about 8:30 am en route to La Antigua Guatemala, a beautiful Colonial city under the shadow of the sleeping Volcan de Agua.  On the way there we stopped to order some vegetable transplants for our activity to teach the children at The Dream Center to make a vegetable raised bed later in the week.

We drove up the mountain to Cerro de la Cruz, for photos of the magnificent view over the city of Antigua and the surrounding mountains.  If you ever get lost in Antigua, the Volcan Agua is to the south; the Calles run east – west, the Avenidas run north – south, and the Parque Central is in the center of the city!!!

We had planned a visit to Caoba Farms, an organic operation with a tourist touch, which unfortunately is closed on Mondays!  One of the great things about our trips is that our itineraries are “flexible”!  Before lunch we went back into town to Santo Domingo museums and markets.  Jorge, Johanna, Yanina and I left the rest of them there to explore, (I had been to Santo Domingo the previous three visits – if you are interested, scroll back in my posts!) and went to Iglesia La Merced where the family had some business to take care of.  First time there for me – a beautiful church!

Santo Domingo

La Merced

Next stop before picking the group up at Santo Domingo was a quick visit to Hotel-Museo La Eterna Primavera – just look at these beautiful flowers!

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On the way back to pick up the group at Santo Domingo, Yanina and I popped into a great little shop selling clothing made from Guatemalan fabrics and fibres – and here I learned, to my surprise, that cotton is grown in Guatemala!!  By this time it was getting to be close to lunch time, so we went to a favorite nursery – La Vivera Escalonia, where they have a wonderful selection of plants, a great restaurant, and a gift shop (one of the essentials of any destination!!)

Here I should introduce “the group”.  Host Jorge, group leader Johanna (his sister and member of A&M Garden Club), Yanina (their sister), Carolyn, myself, Carmen (members of AMGC) and Carmen’s husband Ron, who is a Forestry Expert, Trish who is a Master Gardener in Waller Co. Texas, Robbie and Kirby, Master Gardeners in Travis Co. Texas.

After lunch Jorge dropped us off in town; we walked back to the Parque Central, stopping for coffee and Sorbets along the Calle del Arco, with a quick visit to the markets by the Compradores!!   Then we were homeward bound, to pick up plants, swing in the hammocks for a while to unwind, and another wonderful dinner!

 

 

Guatemala Year Four, day one!

Well, I have been back two weeks today – how did that happen?  My life is such a whirlwind these days that I need to write some notes and share some photos before I forget!

Usually some of us spend the night before the flight in Houston, close to the airport but this time we elected to start from home.  So, 5:45 am on a Sunday morning with no traffic wasn’t a bad option.  After a ticket blip with one of our group, we made our way to the departure gate to look for the two travelers who we not not previously met – all went well, and our plane took off on time.  I love sitting by the window and gazing mindlessly at the clouds – they come in such wonderful shapes and formations!  This photo is leaving Houston. Guate.2018.Day.1.1

We met two more of our party already at the airport, and were soon on our way to La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City.  The Pilot announced that we would be landing to the North, a first for me, and it was exciting to pass by Lake Amatitlan and see Volcan Pacaya from the air.

After landing, meeting up with two more members of our party who had flown in the day before, we went to eat lunch at a small outdoor restaurant at a Mercado close to the airport.  “B.C.” (Before Computers) I used to write a travel diary every day I was away, but now I foolishly leave details to memory, which is why I “think” we had Chile Rellenos for lunch – whatever we had, it was wonderful!!

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After a quick wander round the market and posing for a quick group photo, we headed to the nearby National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.  This is a small museum but very well ordered with some very impressive exhibits.  Well worth a visit!

 

Next was a supermarket stop to pick up a few supplies and our one remaining traveler, and soon we headed for the hills!  Once we arrived at Finca Xejuyu (which incidentally is Mayan Kaqchikel for “at the foot of the mountain”) we chose our rooms, cleaned up a bit and met in the dining room for Happy Hour, and dinner.

Darkness falls early at Xejuyu, and after the journey we were happy to retire early, to be ready for an early start in the morning.