Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fresh food

In a recent meeting of a group of Sisters and Associates, we talked about our carbon
footprints and what we might be able to do to reduce them. It’s a conversation I’ve had many times in the United States, but the whole subject looks different when you’re living in El Salvador.

When I lived in the U.S. I sometimes tried to eat locally – one summer I talked some friends into buying a farm share with me and we all drowned in greens. Another summer I decided to buy my vegetables only in the farmer’s market. Very satisfying, but costly!

Here, nothing is easier – or cheaper – than buying vegetables in the mercado, which happens to be in the next block. Tomatoes, onions, beans, broccoli, squash, huisquil (a pear-shaped green vegetable), cauliflower, garlic, cabbage, parsley, cilantro, carrots, and much more are available year-round. Mostly these vegetables come from Guatemala or Honduras, not quite local, but close enough. If you want to buy them at their freshest, you go to the market early in the morning, when the trucks have just come in from the Tiendona, the big wholesale market in San Salvador.

The glorious fruits – plantains, bananas, granadillas, oranges, lemons, watermelon, papaya, mango, coconut, nance, arrayan and many, many more - are more often local, I think. So are the local wild greens, mora and chipilín, ginger root, natural medicines. And the cheeses, eggs, chicken, fish and beef I’d guess come mainly from close by. You buy corn and beans, the staples, in the nearby farm stores.

The other possibility is a supermarket, which in the case of Suchitoto is a 40-minute drive away. The Supers have imported vegetables and fruits – like bell peppers, sweet potatoes, apples – that you can’t get at the mercado.

You’d think with such abundance close at hand (and very reasonably priced, by U.S. standards) Salvadorans would have super-healthy diets – but the other things that are available in the block next door pull in the other direction: potato chips and plantain chips, packaged snack foods, deep-fat-fried goodies, sugary confections. Hamburgers and pizza are beloved. Still, fresh local food is abundant here, and it’s easy to eat right.

1 comment:

  1. This has been one of my favorite things about life in Guatemala (and something I look forward to when I arrive in Suchitoto next week).

    A revelation I had about guisquil a while back: slap some googley eyes on it, stick it on a brick wall, and have it sing about the alphabet - and, voila, it's a Sesame Street character. :)