Sunday, March 2, 2014


Well, I finally got back to the blog.  I can tell fatigue from being sick is really getting me down.  Halfway through cooking today, I was ready to take a nap.  But my fiending for papusas overcame that fatigue.  Well, maybe a little. 

The first thing I got started today was salpicón de res, or shredded beef salad.  It actually called for a beef flank steak, but when I finally found them, they ranged from $18-26. Um, no. So, I went with some sirloin steaks that were on sale for less than half the cost.  I put each steak in a pot of water with some onions and salt and let it cook down for about two hours. Then I took it out and shredded it, mixing this in with a bowl of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Mexican oregano, salt, pepper, a can of diced tomatoes, a little sliced onion, (I left out the chilies), and some chopped avocado.  After gently mixing everything together (because I didn’t want to end up mashing my avocados), I put this in the refrigerator.

My husband loved this. In fact, it's really good if you put it on top of the pupusa as well! 
In the meantime, I also was making the curtido to go with the pupusas.  Curtido consists of shredded cabbage, grated carrots, and sliced onions, topped with a mixture of apple cider vinegar, water, salt, brown sugar, dried Mexican oregano, and some crushed red pepper.  I think I used too much cabbage (and I didn’t even use how much they said!), because it was still a little dry.  And I’m not sure if it was supposed to be made with green or red cabbage.  The stores were running out of things because it was snowing today and people generally went crazy. (But not as bad a the storm in early January.) It was described on a couple sites like being a cross between Korean kimchi and sauerkraut. It turned out like neither.

Curtido on top.  Looks and tastes like cole slaw. I need to figure out how to make this better.
And because horchata is a common drink in El Salvador as well, I bought a mix from the international grocery store.  I’ve ordered horchata in restaurants, but I’ve never bought my own mix.  My sister bought a powder mix, but the only one I could find was a liquid concentrate.  It was pretty good.  My son couldn’t get enough.  And then insisted he could pour it himself and poured it directly on the table. Lovely. (Probably not my most well thought out plan.)

Pupusas!! It's no wonder there's a holiday devoted to these.
And finally, we come to pupusas.  I went on two trips to find corn flour to start with.  And this one starts out with mixing the flour with warm water and salt until it’s a soft dough. I had to add a lot more water than the recipe actually calls for. After letting it sit for about 15 minutes, I broke it into six pieces and rolled them into balls. Gently, I made an indention with my thumb and spooned in a little bit of refried beans and topped with some grated queso cotijo.  What was hard to do was wrap it around the beans and cheese to close it up back into a ball. But when I did, I flattened it.  (I found it helpful to dip my fingers in water and then rub the ball before I made the indention.)  But after I made all of the flattened pupusas, I fried them on a griddle.  They’re meant to be topped with the cutido and salsa roja (that I didn’t make today).  I did top mine with a little bit of some peppery corn salsa that I bought last week. It was really good. Because of the dryness of the corn tortilla, you really need to have some kind of salsa to go on top of it. Real pupusas are also filled with a finely ground pork called chicharrón, but I left that out. Maybe next time.

This will make an awesome lunch for me tomorrow. Too bad I have to surround my lunch time with work. 
I liked this meal.  In fact, my husband is losing his mind over it.  Making this meal today was more or less a personal goal.  I have a lot on my plate right now that I found myself really having to push myself to finish this one.  But I did finish it. And although it snowed again today (even though this is March 2 and it really needs to stop now), I did manage to feed my family. That’s winning in my book. And I rewarded myself with some Mexican beer since they don’t sell any Salvadoran beer here.  I tried a different one this time: Pacifico.  I thought it was really good. So, while these recipes will go in my folder to be made again later, I’ll be taking another break in my blog to take a writing class to learn some new things and hone my skills. This working full time is getting in the way of all the other things I want to do in my life. Actually, it would be great if I had a writing job somewhere where it didn't feel like a job. 

Up next:  Equitorial Guinea


If you really listen to the sounds from El Salvador, the first thing you’ll probably hear is the different instruments used. Depending on the style, who’s playing it, the occasion, and which part of the country, you may hear xylophones, guitars, trumpets, pianos (my favorite!), flutes, as well as different kinds of percussion instruments: gourds, scrapers, various drums, and tubular bells (my other favorite!).  In El Salvador, instruments carry a meaning, other than tone in music. Trumpets signify a national pride.  Xylophones are the most important folk instrument. The tubular bells stem from their devout Christian faith. 

One of the main styles that is almost considered the national style of music is called Xuc (I believe it’s pronounced “sook”).  The name of it comes from the sound of a Salvadoran wind instrument called sacabuche, stemming from the sound that it makes. The music actually emerged out of the department of Cuscatlán in 1942, but the dance that accompanies it now wasn’t choreographed until 16 years later.

Other regional styles of music from Latin America and the Caribbean are also popular forms found in El Salvador as well. Cumbia, salsa, merengue, and bachata are also commonly performed and listened to, and it has influenced Salvadoran music. Hip-hop, reggaeton, heavy metal, reggae, punk, ska, dance music/electronic music has also found its way into people’s homes as well. 

It was a little harder to find information on current Salvadoran musicians. But with my awesome research skills, I found a few bands/groups that I like. Salvadorans like one of my favorite genres: ska (I always define it as a cross between reggae and punk, more or less. And it definitely has to have a horn line.)  One band that I found is called Adhesivo.  They’re pretty upbeat but mixes the styles up a little (fast vs. slow, changes in the texture of the music, etc.). 

Another group called Los Tachos has a heavier reggae feel to their music, at least what I heard on the album Positiva Resistencia.  I think at times, it sounds like remakes of Bob Marley songs.  And since I’m a Bob Marley fan, I like their music.

The band Frigüey (pronounced something like “free-gway”) writes music that is a mix of cumbia, salsa, and reggaeton, and in my opinion, adds in a little bit of reggae, funk, and rock as well.  I really like this group.  The music is catchy – I listened to the album Mujeres Arriba.  There’s something about them that I like. I might try to find this one.

There are even a couple of rap and hip-hop artists from El Salvador that I found as well.  One group that I found is called Pescozada.  Judging from my loose translations of the titles of the songs, I’m guessing the subject matter reflects the same subjects matters written about in American rap and hip-hop songs. Another that I found is called Reyes del Bajo Mundo. It’s more or less in the same styles as Pescozada. But I like both of them.

Up next: the food

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Art galleries in El Salvador are numerous, and many of them are owned by the artists themselves.  Many artists, such as Fernando Llort, have travelled abroad to Europe and the US to study art and bring what they learned back home.  They learn the techniques and the fundamentals and then combine it with their own culture.  Similar to other Latin countries, the use of bright colors and dramatic shading influences Salvadoran artists as well.  And as in the case of Llort, a simplistic approach to art with his public paintings on buildings of animals, houses, flowers, trees, etc.  In fact, Llort’s hometown of La Palma has now become widely known as the folk art capital. 

Artists will often put back into and contribute to the communities they are in and around. Miguel Angel Ramirez uses his art to help low-income children to express themselves through art.  He’s most widely known for his paintings of children’s faces, but he also delves into other styles as well.   

Outside of painting, Salvadoran artists also excel in other mediums as well, such as sculpture, murals, wood carving, jewelry making, photography, textile crafts, leatherwork, hammock making, etc.  Arts and crafts are important to El Salvadoran society.  It not only gives people the joy of creating something and expressing themselves and even contributing to their community, but it also contributes to their local economy by selling their goods, especially in the touristy areas.  San Salvador is a popular place for artists to come to sell their work. 

Literature during the colonial period reflected that of what was happening in Spain during that time.  It was also closely tied to similar styles that were being utilized in Mexico, Guatemala, and other areas in Central America.  Even though El Salvador was pretty far away from the cultural centers of the Hispanic world, it was far from being devoid of culture. Small pockets of educated people kept these arts alive.

Francisco Gravidia

Religious literature has been a popular form since the beginning.  Other works at this time are historical documents and educational materials/manuals.  During the mid-19th century, the University of El Salvador and the National Library were founded.  A lot of the literature at this time emerged from the elite educated circles, but there were a few exceptions, of course, as in the La Juventud society.  This was also a time when scientific research was also being published as well.  However, later this movement was criticized and led to a rift in the literary world, creating a new movement called modernismo. Two authors who pioneered in this movement were Rubén Darío and Francisco Gravidia. 
Arturo Ambrogi
The 20th century brought out a change in literary expressions and styles. As the political climate changed, the voices of the people changed too – and authors were reflecting this.  Journalists became a coveted job for the politically-minded writers, like Alberto Masferrer.  Arturo Ambrogi is another author from the early 20th century who is considered the most read author in El Salvador.  El Salvador also went through an anti-modernism movement, followed by an anti-authoritarianism movement.  Overall, I think much of the 20th century Salvadoran literature is influenced by the political and social events in and around the country. 

Up next: music and dance