All About Dominican Food

3 Mar

It is rare when I check my email to find anything other than spam, listserves or updates from Peace Corps. Well, the other day when my internet was working particularly well, I opened up gmail to find an introductory email between Bronwen and Grace, a fellow PCV serving in Thailand. Grace writes an awesome blog about food in the Peace Corps that follows volunteers serving all over the world and their perspectives on food. Here’s the interview below!

Name: Grayson Caldwell

Site: Dominican Republic (small mountain town of 50 homes)

Service Dates: August 2013-October 2015

Describe Dominican cuisine in one sentence. A mountain of rice with a side of beans.

You live in a community where agriculture is the primary livelihood. What kind of crops is your region known for?

Yuca (cassava) is the only crop that is grown in my town. It is a starchy root  vegetable that is religiously served at both breakfast and dinner with either fried salami, fried eggs or fried cheese on top. You can also make casabe out of yuca which is like a crunchier pita bread. There is a casabe factory down the street from my house which was built as a USAID project and employees about 15 people.

Since moving to the Dominican Republic, you’ve started gardening. What inspired you to start growing your own food? (What kind of veggies do you grow? Have you been successful in encouraging others to garden?)

I live in a food desert. On an average day, your options at the local colmado(bodega) are an assortment of viveres (yuca, potatoes and green bananas/plaintains), salami, cheese, eggs and beans. I started a community garden project with a group of women in my health group. To be completely honest, this was started a bit selfishly because I couldn’t imagine spending two years without access to veggies. So we now have 14 different gardens in my town growing lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, beets and more. Some of the women have even started selling the vegetables from their gardens at the local colmado.

Virginia

Carmen y Laura

You are passionate about cooking and have shared a number of recipes on your blog. What is your favorite thing to cook in the kitchen these days?

 Homemade Falafel

Ingredients:

-1 can chickpeas

-4 eggs

-1/2 tsp salt

-1/3 cup chopped cilantro

-1 onion, chopped

-1/2 oats

-1 tbsp oil

Combine chickpeas, eggs and salt in a blender (or you can smash it all up by hand) until it looks like a thick hummus mixture. Stir in cilantro, onion and oats. Heat oil and pan-fry 1 ½ inch patties for 5-6 minutes on each side.

There is a farmer in my town who makes homemade yogurt which I’ve been mixing with a dollop of green curry paste as a dipping sauce. So good!

On your “PCV Packing List” for the DR, you recommended that future PCVs bring basic cooking staples like spices, coconut oil, and hot sauce. What American ingredient would you be most excited to find in your town?

Almond butter. Paleo pancakes (almond butter, an egg and a banana), an afternoon snack with an apple and almond butter or even just adding a spoonful to smoothies. I love the stuff. Unfortunately, you can only find it at fancy grocery stores in the capital and it is way out of any PCV’s budget. Instead it always at the top of any wish list for packages from America 🙂

What aspect of Dominican food culture would you like to bring back with you to the States?

Definitely la bandera–rice, beans, meat and if you’re lucky, a salad–is served at lunch at any Dominican house across the country. I really like that families all gather around the lunch table everyday at noon and that lunch is the biggest meal of the day. It is my goal at the end of my service to master Dominican rice and beans. Until then, I just keep popping my head into my favorite doña‘s (older lady) kitchen at lunchtime.

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