Eating Piranha, really? (Brazil)

For a moment I am caught off guard and almost fall overboard. Piranha jaws sharply tug at the chunk of fat I had fastened on the hook. Pablo, my host, guide and friend helps me pull in my line until the feisty creature plops on the bottom of the boat in fluttering spasms.

Fortunately, Pablo doesn’t expect me to remove the hook from the razor-toothed jaws. In the Pantanal wetlands, but also in Brazil’s other waters that are teeming with piranhas such as the Amazon, Paraguai, Orinoco and São Francisco River, it is not uncommon to encounter fishermen who miss the top of a finger. Even experienced anglers may still get caught by surprise, thinking the piranha has drawn its last breath, only to find it dangling from a finger.

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What’s There to Like about Beans? – Check out Brazil’s Staple Food

Brazil's staple food: Black Beans (©photocoen)If I wanted to blend in with Brazilian culture I better started liking the traditional Brazilian food of beans and rice – Brazil’s staple food. Brazilians live on white beans, black beans – or feijão branco and feijão negro. Another typical bean dish is feijoada.

Beans come with every single Brazilian meal, no matter where in the country. They are served in private homes as well as in every single self-service restaurant, and are principally served during lunch – Brazilians’ main meal of the day.

Brazil’s Staple Food and Mealtimes

After a year of traveling in Brazil I concluded that beans and rice must be more important to Brazilians than coffee to Americans or cheese to the French. There simply is no meal served without them. In fact, it’s so common and we got used to it so quickly that we never took a single picture of this typical meal. Continue reading

Organic Chocolate in French Guiana: Walapulu

cacao bean

cacao bean

Paying 5 euros (6 US dollars) for a chocolate bar? What kind of price is that?

Yves Delecroix’ presentation of his chocolate making process came with une dégustation – a tasting of his homemade, organic chocolate. You don’t need to be a connoisseur to immediately appreciate this pure chocolate, made with 72% cacao.

Suddenly 5 euros is not that bad a price to pay. Continue reading

Women Empowerment in Bolivia – a Yoghurt Factory

Doña Edelfrida daily walks 5 kms to the yoghurt factory to deliver 40 liters of milk (©Coen Wubbels)

Doña Edelfrida daily walks 5 kms to the yoghurt factory to deliver 40 liters of milk (©Coen Wubbels)

During Coen’s photography assignment for Bevrijde Wereld (locally called Mundo Nuevo), a Belgian NGO that supports agricultural projects with the emphasis on food safety, we visited a project focusing on women empowerment: a yoghurt factory in Koari, central Bolivia.

INCCA is one of Bevrijde Wereld’s partner organizations in Bolivia and the yoghurt factory was one of their successful projects. Soon after the start of the yoghurt factory, the women were given the opportunity to sell yoghurt to schools in Tiraque (near Cochabamba), where it would be part of the school breakfast, which meant a weekly production of 14,000 bags with 100 mls of yoghurt. How did they manage?

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Women’s Opinions Didn’t Count – Planting Trees in Bolivia

During Coen’s photography assignment for Bevrijde Wereld, a Belgian NGO that supports agricultural projects with a focus on food safety, we visited various rural communities in Bolivia. In the village of Kolga Koya each household received six fruit trees and was instructed on how to plant and maintain them.

Planting trees? You dig a hole, put in the tree, close the hole and water the tree, right? Or is it not that simple? Continue reading

Salteñas, Almuerzos, Chicha – Typical Food & Beverages in Bolivia

Pastel – fried pastry with cheese.

The Bolivian cuisine is not as diverse as its landscape. Even though there are regional variations between the lowlands and Andes Mountains, traditional Bolivian meals are mainly a result of versatility in the use of the country’s staple food of potatoes, corn and rice.

Having said that, we do like Bolivian food and would say is most certainly worth a try when visiting the country. After all, food is not only fundamental, but also a way to learn something about a country’s history and geography, as well as its daily life.

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Bolivia’s Main Meal of the Day: Lunch, or Almuerzo

Soup is an essential part of Bolivia’s ‘almuerzo’.

Every day – roughly between twelve and two thirty – part of Bolivia closes down. It’s lunchtime. For everyone. Within minutes local restaurants are packed and waiters are serving customers as fast as possible. We daily join the crowds to have a taste of Bolivia’s simplest yet most plentiful meal: almuerzo. It is the perfect way to get a feel for Bolivia’s traditional food. Note that the food discussed in this blog post is focused on the highland (altiplano). Continue reading

El Cafetal’s Coffee Plantation

Young Coffee Plants (©Coen Wubbels)

Bolivia is one of the world’s producers of Arabica coffee. While the Yungas (north of La Paz) is Bolivia’s traditional and principal coffee growing region, the country’s largest exporter is situated in the department of Santa Cruz – in Buena Vista, to be exact. A friend suggested to check out Hacienda El Cafetal, to visit the coffee plantation and factory and, of course, to taste some high-quality, organic coffee. Continue reading

Fresh Mint Tea with Mint Leaves from the Garden

For the past couple of weeks we stayed with friends in Cochabamba (Bolivia), who have a beautiful garden. Gardening is something I miss in our life on the road and I loved getting my hands in that soil again. Most of all, I have always appreciated vegetable gardens. I used to have my own and took great pleasure in harvesting my vegetables, fruits and herbs. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 7): Serving an Egg!

One of the restaurants in Bolivia where we had lunch

This is day 7 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger”. We have stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant in east Bolivia.

The owner asks what I’d like to have. I can choose between costilla frita and milanesa. I ask if I can have the milanesa without the milanesa, if she understands what I mean. We arrived in Bolivia only a couple of days ago and after two years of speaking Portuguese, English, French and Dutch I have to dig deep to find any Spanish word at all, and am not sure if my question makes sense. Continue reading

Who Doesn’t Like Peanut Butter?

Yvette lets us taste the fresh peanut butter of the peanut factory in Aranaputa

Do you know anybody who doesn’t like peanut butter? I don’t and nobody has ever understood why I didn’t like it.
Neither did I. I just didn’t.

Until, one day, we were traveling in the Rupununi Savanna of Guyana*. In the village of Aranaputa we saw a sign: “Peanut Butter Factory”, and were intrigued. Continue reading

Indian Food – Eating From a Lotus Leaf

We have been staying with a family in a gold-mining town. Uma, our host, lives with her parents and her young son Nigel on the outskirts of town. She suggested we should visit one of her aunties and family for a celebration. It takes a bit of patience but we are rewarded with how it feels to eat with our fingers again. (For some reason we have no photos of this particular day, but these will give you an impression of Guyana’s countryside). Continue reading

Eating Starch? – What’s the Secret to Making a Proper Beiju?

Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Why did I not think of this before? I’ll just buy tapioca and we’ll make beiju,” I concluded. It was such a simple solution to such a simple problem: staying in a village where I couldn’t find bread and needed something for breakfast. Continue reading