*[Enwl-eng] Foods We Love

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Feb 3, 2024, 5:00:36 PMFeb 3
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Many of our favorite foods are linked to family and culture. What if they disappear?

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Vanishing Foodways

IN THE VERY EARLY HOURS of the morning, when the community is still asleep, Juana is already in action. It is three in the morning and her gastronomic corner, the Kiosco Luís Elián, is getting ready to open its doors. Soft music fills the air as she concentrates on her culinary work. At 5:00 AM, customers begin to arrive in search of a warm and comforting breakfast.

By lunchtime, a line has formed with people waiting for Juana’s cooking. The menu of the day offers a variety of options, from stewed chicken to fried ripe plantains. But it is the rice soup that attracts everyone’s attention. It is the star dish, a simple but satisfying combination that promises to keep stomachs full for hours. In this corner of Panama, as in the entire country, rice is an essential component of daily life.

Thousands of miles away, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, a similar scene occurs every morning. There, Dorys Peña runs a small food stall known locally for the preparation of majadito batido or graneado passed down from generation to generation.

Like her Panamanian colleague, Dorys learned the amounts of ingredients and cooking times when she was a child. Her secret is to diversify the use of rice. Whether as a majadito graneado (toasted rice) or majadito batido, which is not grained and is seasoned with a spoonful of urucu, which adds a saffron-like color, her preparations include onion, paprika, pepper, cumin and shredded charque (dehydrated beef), and are complemented with eggs, plantains and served with boiled yuca.

Juana, on the other hand, prepares the soup with a smaller amount of seasoning, but the result is just as effective. She mixes the rice with meat and vegetables to submerge it in a fragrant broth which gives it an unmistakable homemade flavor. She modestly says, “Today it didn’t turn out so well.” But one of her diners is quick to contradict her. “Please give me a little more rice.”

Certainly, rice represents a bond with tradition and culture that is shared in almost all of Latin America and the Caribbean. According to data provided by the Regional Fund for Agricultural Technology (FONTAGRO), it is the fourth most consumed food in the region and contributes on average 11 percent to the per capita caloric intake in Latin American countries. Panama and Bolivia are worthy representatives of this abundance which, despite the indispensable role of rice in many recipes, could face various risks in the not-too-distant future.

Food brings us together. Our mouths water for a dish that is part of our gastronomic tradition and our history. They are dishes that have been on our palate for generations. But what if that was no longer so?


This article is part of a three-part series produced by InquireFirst that looks into traditional foodways in Latin America that are now at risk.

Photo by 2010CIAT/NeilPalmer


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Sent: Saturday, February 03, 2024 4:45 AM
Subject: Foods We Love


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