Sunday, April 28, 2013

CAPE VERDE: THE FOOD


This meal is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for vegetarians and vegans. This meal came as a celebratory meal since I passed a REALLY hard exam for insurance licensure two days ago. Now I can breathe again and stop being a stress induced, really mean individual. 

Simmering stock of various meats, vegetables, beans -- what's not to love?
The main meal for today was cachupa rica. From what I gathered, it’s somewhat of a national dish.  And from the ingredient list, it makes me think that its beginnings stemmed from making a stew from all the little bits of leftovers to make a meal that could feed a bivouac. The stew contains samp (otherwise known as hominy), kidney beans, pinto beans, chicken, pork spareribs (I used boneless ribs), chorizo, cabbage, tomatoes, plantains, sweet potatoes, yellow squash, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. (I left out the lima beans, the blood sausage, and the bacon. It also calls to garnish it with chopped coriander, which I was going to use some ground coriander, but I forgot.)  In essence, everything is mixed together and allowed to simmer for a while until all the meat is cooked and the potatoes were soft. There were hardly any spices or herbs added – the chorizo added a LOT of flavor to the stew. It was really good; I was quite impressed.  In fact, I can’t wait to eat the leftovers for my lunch tomorrow.

Fried bananas -- hey, there's technically rum in that. 
After this, it sort of went downhill from here. I decided to make fried bananas. First, I sprinkled cinnamon and brown sugar on the sliced bananas. Simple enough. Next for the batter: it called for corn flour (which I didn’t have, so I thought white cornmeal was close enough), sugar, butter, an egg, salt, white run (I used some cachaça I had left over from making caipirinhas when we did Brazilian food), and milk. I took the batter mixture and pressed it around the bananas and fried them. The problem is that I’m a terrible fryer, and I forgot everything I learned about frying when I cooked Bolivian food. I had my heat up too high and not quite enough oil after the first few batches and some ended up burning a little.  And that resulted in smoking up my kitchen and setting the smoke detector off. Yeah, just a typical day in the kitchen with yours truly.  Otherwise, life would be boring. I had to call my husband (who was just merely in the garage) to come into the house and save the day.

We've decided it really needs a dipping sauce or perhaps a jelly/jam of some sort. 
After the smoke dissipated, I decided it was a perfect time to finish off the meal with gufong, a sort of sweet fried breadstick. The directions were something new to me: it started out with boiling the water and sugar, then adding the cornmeal and flour, and salt and baking powder together. It got really thick very quickly.  Once it cooled, then I could form it into short breadsticks and fry them. I tried to do a better job this time (like turning down the heat to avoid making my kitchen as smoky as a lounge).  But I think I’m done frying for a while. It tasted awesome though – my husband ate five. 

The final product of my celebratory meal. Really, I'll say it again -- what's not to love? 
I really enjoyed this meal – even if I forgot the coriander and smoked up my kitchen – and listening to the music. It also made me realize I know a lot about things that most people aren’t aware of (the true sign of a nerd, I suppose. I should wear it as a badge.).  When I told people I was researching Cape Verde, most people would say something to the effect of, “Hmm, never heard of it. Sounds like a resort area.” And then I think that I’ve known about Cape Verde for ten years.  Not as much as I know now, but I’ve at least heard of it. And that always makes me wonder if I’m the odd one for knowing these things, but then I think perhaps I’m just the odd one here in the US. I think on a whole, Americans do poorly in world geography, and even local and national geography for that matter. It’s always been important for me to know where things are so I know which way I’m going. Maybe, one day, we’ll all know where things are and which way to go.

Up next:  Central African Republic 

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