Posted by: Thida | November 17, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Cooking While Living Abroad

Sopa de frijoles a la Thida

You might remember that Claudia, my ex-Spanish teacher, showed me how to make a sopa de frijoles (red bean soup). So I tried my hand at making my own with a “Thida twist”.

Of course, being a dietitian and all, I added a little more colour in the soup because the original recipe is all red and yellow/brown.

My ingredients:

Green beans, ripe plantain, green bananas, tomatoes, fresh baby corn, onion, garlic, celery, green and orange peppers, yuca (I love this stuf!), chicken broth, especias, bay leafs, fresh cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. Oh yeah…red beans (that’s the whole purpose of the soup).

Fresh ingredients for my sopa de frijoles

Claudia made it with beef and it’s commonly made that way but I omitted that.

So I made my soup the easy way. You know…throw everything in a pot and let it simmer. I did however cook the red beans separately for a couple of hours and I added some of the cooking water to the soup to give it a darker colour.

I had the soup with a side of tortillas and cuajada, a salty cheese curd-type made locally. It was easy, nutritious and delicious!

Sopa de frijoles a la Thida. Served with lemon, cuajada and tortillas.

It was super easy to make, not only because it was a soup, but also because I used local ingredients, which was not the case for the following cooking experience.

European Style Dinner in Honduras

Last weekend, I had my friends Ernenek and Lizzette at home for dinner. The goal was to make a European style dinner.

The following is the menu with the ingredients. I will also point out the ingredients that I had to buy either in Tegucigalpa, the capital, or Choluteca because I couldn’t find them in San Lorenzo.

  • Parmesan Risotto: butter (Cholu), onion, garlic, Arborio rice (Tegu), white wine, chicken broth, fresh parmesan (Tegu), salt and pepper
  • Fish with pesto and sun dried tomato, cooked in the oven: white fish fillets, pesto (Tegu), mayonnaise, sun dried tomato (Tegu), cayenne pepper flakes (Cholu), olive oil (Cholu), salt and pepper
  • Ratatouille: onion, garlic, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, celery, tomato, red peppers, dry oregano flakes (Cholu), bay leaf
  • Banana cake: flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, bananas, egg, baking soda (which I couldn’t find in San Lorenzo so I couldn’t add it to the recipe)
  • To drink: a nice Chianti red wine (Tegu)

The challenges:

Finding out that the “spinach” you bought wasn’t actually spinach – even though the label said it was. The taste reminded me of something I ate before but I couldn’t figure it out what it was. The leaves were thicker and had a bitter taste.

Opening a bottle of what you think is regular white wine – because the label said it was! – and hearing a “ppshhhh”, and realizing that it’s actually sparkling wine. We still used it for the Risotto.

Buying fish fillets and not knowing exactly what kind of fish it is – even though you asked the merchant but couldn’t understand her. Seeing the merchant taking her hands out of a bucket full of fish, taking your money, giving you change with her hands dripping of fish juice, giving you the fish and then putting her hands back in the bucket full of fish. If it’s any consolation the fish was really cheap: $3 for 2 lbs.

Realizing that you don’t actually have all the kitchen tools to prepare your meal (e.g. enough pots, cake mould, cheese grater). Using whatever tools you can find to do the job; juggling food from one container to another as you go along trying to cook your meal.

Using your brand new can opener to open a can of baking powder and seeing it break it your hands after 5 seconds; and then trying to use your old non-functioning can opener which doesn’t work because it’s already broken (duh!). Trying to pry open the can anyway with whatever you have handy while not slicing your fingers (I just needed a teaspoon! Come on!)

Opening a new plastic bag of cayenne pepper flakes; sprinkling the pepper on your fish; noticing afterwards that there are small bugs moving in the plastic bag. This leads to panic and a thorough inspection of the fish to make sure nothing is moving there.  I threw away the rest of the bag.

The Result

You can imagine that at this point I was starting to have a panic attack. I was worrying that the meal was going to be a disaster.

The finished product was really surprising, in a good way! And a relief to be honest!

The fish was great – I’ll have to go back to the market and ask again what fish I got. The ratatouille was very tasty, although Liz didn’t actually like the spinach wannabe. The risotto was just perfect, which means you can actually make risotto with sparkling wine. The banana cake turned out not too bad either.

The most important thing is that no one got sick! Éxito! (Success!)

So you see folks! With a little bit of patience, resourcefulness and a sense of humour – and two friends who can provide on-the-spot therapy and encouragement – you too can make your own home-made meal. And you’ll probably have less trouble than I had!


Responses

  1. J’adore te lire… Ciao!

    • Merci Louise! C’est très gentil! xoxo

  2. Très drôle Thida! Et percer la boite de poudre à pâte (genre à la can de sirop d’érable), ça n’aurait pas fonctionné? J’essaie de t’aider!!! lol

    Je me revois en Angleterre à tenter de faire un pouding chômeur avec une tasse à mesurer avec les mesures anglaises… ouf, ç’a été un échec cuisant!

    C’est fou comme on réalise qu’on a beaucoup de gadgets utiles et auxquels on est accrocs à la maison et qu’on avait pas réalisé leur importance;
    et aussi qu’on peut faire sans, comme la plupart des gens sur cette planète.

    À bientôt!

    • Salut Mel!

      oh que tu as raison!!! Je me rends compte, en effet, que je suis accro à mes bidules de cuisine (tiens une autre dépendance à ajouter à ma liste!).
      J’ai pensé à percer la boîte de conserve, mais puisqu’il ne s’agissait pas d’un liquide, ça aurait été un autre défi de faire sortir la poudre à pâte par un petit trou. De toute manière, je n’avais rien pour percer la boîte!!
      Bisous et A+! xox

  3. What a challenge! Bravo chica! I miss your yummy risotto :)

    • Thanks for the comment Lan! That’s right, I made the Risotto for you guys! It was almost the same as at home! Kisses and hugs xox

  4. Wow, Thida, this reminds me of the time I found live critters in my organic cereal (get this:) while I was eating them! Gross. We both got up immediately and chugged vodka at 7:30 a.m. Tiens bon!

    • Allo Sofia! Thanks for writing! I like this vodka idea! Maybe I should have some more often…just in case ;)

  5. Hi Thida,
    That is the most fabulous story. I’ve had similar experiences trying to make something I’m very familiar with here in another country and it seems such a challenge. Your story also reminded me of when Emma asked me to send her some ingredients for cooking while she was in Equador – herbs, tabasco sauce, etc. Sent her package which never arrived because it was held in customs there for 3 months. Was eventually returned here long after she was already back but she also felt stymied without a few key things for making pizza, for instance, which had been a request in the village. I think the ingredient hunt is the most fun and eventually one does as you did – ah, let’s try it and hope for the best. Not sure about the bugs in the cayenne though! Take care and keep posting! Corinne

    • Hi Corinne! Thanks for the comment! Your story is great too! I think the ingredient hunt is the most frustrating AND fun. When you do find a key ingredient it feels like Christmas every time! Lots of love xox

  6. Hi Thida. What a great post! Who would have thought that so many things could go ‘wrong’ with one dinner! You are a trooper for sticking with it. I, on the other hand, would have gotten take-out and enjoyed that bottle of wine ;). (do they have take-out in Honduras?).

    • Hi Lisa! Thanks for writing! Yah, I guess I could have done take-out but the whole purpose was to eat something different. I think I now have the confidence to say that I can cook anything anywhere! Take care now!

  7. Salut Thida!

    J’adore te lire. C’est tellement interessant et excitant ce que tu fais. Continue! Mariexxx

    • Allô Marie! Merci pour ton commentaire et pour l’encouragement! C’est très gentil! Prends soin de toi! xox

  8. Loved reading this post! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you are having all kinds of experiences… one could not imagine.

    • Hi Sandra! Thanks for writing! Yup, I’m living all kinds of learning experiences! I hope all is well with you!

  9. Ça faisait un petit bout que je n’étais pas venue flâner sur ton blog! Tes posts sont toujours aussi captivants, remplis d’humour et d’autodérision. J’adore! Je suis contente de voir que tu gardes le moral et que tu sembles aimer ton expérience au Honduras! À bientôt! XXXMarianne

    • Salut Marianne! Comment vas-tu? Merci pour ton commentaire! C’est vraiment gentil! J’imagine que tu prépares pour les Fêtes. Je t’envoie pleins de bisous xo


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