Saturday, April 08, 2006

Eating and Drinking Dirt

Someone commented on drinking coffee being equivalent to drinking dirt or something to that effect. That reminded me that although some tastes are more difficult to acquire than others, they can definitely be acquired.

Prime example: that Bolivian gourmet delicacy called chuno (sorry, don't know how to do the Spanish ny). While preparing for my Mormon mission in Bolivia they taught us about chuno in culture class and prepared us for how awful it is. The title for this post will take you to a link showing chuno being produced. This is a link to the Wikipedia page. Describing it as a freeze dried potato doesn't really do it justice. Have you ever gone into your pantry to get a potato and been assaulted by the earthy, rotten smell of a potato gone bad? You pull it out and it has gone black and mushy? That is what chuno smells like. It's more than a freeze dried potato. It's a freeze dried rotten potato. Except that a rotten potato is mushy but when reconstituted chuno is crunchy like a raw potato. In chuno the cells of the potato are surrounded with the black essence of a rotten potato. I can tell you're drooling.

My first time in a Bolivian market I saw piles of brown dirt on top of blankets. "Why are they selling dirt," I asked my companion.

"Oh, that's chuno," he replied.

I wasn't there long before lunch was served with chuno soup. Nothing like a steaming bowl of soup that smells like a rotten potato to get your mouth watering. I sampled it and it didn't make me puke (ironically, nothing I ate in Bolivia ever did). But it wasn't an immediate favorite.

One morning I went into the kitchen to make my carrot tea and saw the dirt soaking in a bowl. I knew we had something in store for lunch. What came out on the plate was something of a surprise. The cook had fried the chuno with cheese and served it with a really rich Bolivian corn that looked like hominy but tasted so much better. The salty cheese and the chuno somehow did something for my taste buds that neither could hope to do on their own. And a taste was acquired.

Later in my mission I got strange looks from companions as I'd pick up a packet of Know chuno soup mix at the shop. I got positively disbelieving looks of disgust when I actually prepared it and slurped it down back at our apartment.

Anyway, I don't feel a need to drink coffee just because it's popular and it was forbidden to me for the first 40 years of my life. I like some of it that I've tried and detested others. I like the mild boost it gives me in the morning. It helps my migraines. It is full of antioxidants and has other health benefits.

I appreciate the comments and suggestions. I'm actually rather suprised that anyway has dropped in. I'm enjoying the blogging and browsing around. It's rather addictive. Just what I need...


Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I tried to post... but it wouldn't let me...

Joseph's Left One said...

Ah, the joys of Bolivian cuisine. Once we gave a discussion to a lady as she gutted and cleaned a freshly killed chicken. Then she put it in a pot with chuño. I was praying we'd be done before the soup was, but no, she had a lot of questions.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

My brother talks about being in Brazil... talking and eating with two chicken feet on his dish... yep it was the delicacy. LOl