making baleadas

If you ever find yourself in Central America, called to work at a Christian school… And if that school has only been in session 12 1/2 days due to swine flu and political crises… And if that length of time spent outside of your work (without seeing students’ faces) forces an inner struggle with purpose… And if that inner struggle turns into a more tangible questioning… And if all of this builds to an unaccountable climax, you may wonder what to do.

May I suggest making baleadas?

Emily and I ventured out today and walked the streets, which seemed strangely normal. Everything from traffic to hot dog stands to stocked produce shelves at the grocery store. It made yesterday seem like a day-long dream.

Taxi drivers still sat in the same spot by the hospital, shirts folded above their bellies and mothers still walked arm-in-arm with their grown daughters down the street to catch the bus. Furniture stores were still selling furniture and our favorite frozen yogurt place still sold frozen yogurt.

My brain quickly tired of trying to come up with explanations of why everything looked so… normal. We finally made it back home and I guess we both thought we’d like to turn our minds to the kitchen to tackle something important and patriotic… like baleadas.

Wikipedia says the name baleadas comes from either the bullet shape of the bean () or a legend that a woman making them was accidentally shot (bala means bullet). I’m not sure where the name comes from, but the taste is absolutely delicious. I’ve had baleadas at some of the most “local” places in the city – on the street in Guanacaste and at the stadium market – and I definitely appreciate the flavor. My neighbors from church also invited me over for baleadas one Friday night and I got to see the whole process unfold right there in the kitchen.

Well, I know we didn’t do everything right. And, to be honest, the result was probably not near as “Honduran” as I let myself believe (could that be due to the fact that we got all of our recipes online instead of from a wise, aging Honduran neighbor?).

Here, I’ll invite you to see our “normal therapy” today:
Emily started the beans YESTERDAY. That’s right, they took over 24 hours. I think we picked up the wrong beans at the store yesterday, but who could blame us? It was mayhem! I think she added garlic, chili powder, and cumin. After soaking and cooking them forever, she smashed and then blended them, adding a little oil.
I looked up directions for tortillas (something I was convinced everyone said was super easy, but I would find to be hard) and decided I would master it. Of course, I am doing whole wheat tortillas because I’ve got to try to make these things healthier because they taste so good. I found a recipe with five ingredients and simple directions (thanks sarah pachev). I added my tortilla-pounding skills from my church friend Maria, who used the brim of a plate (for uniformity, of course). After making about five, I realized why those women in the market sweat so much, with their hands constantly over a skillet!

Then, on to the eggs. Emily cut up onions, red peppers, and green peppers, and then I cooked them in a bit of oil and added tomato paste and water (we didn’t have tomatos). Then we added eggs and minutes later we were all through!
I know this doesn’t sound like a big accomplishment – refried beans, eggs, and tortillas. But, the big test is tasting the Honduras in everything. Because it’s not just beans, eggs, and tortillas… it’s way WAY better.
I think the baleadas was just the antidote our minds needed tonight. You know, I’m appreciating more and more this perseverance I see to do normal life, amongst very abnormal circumstances. Baleadas was the most normal thing we could think to do tonight after four days of uncertainty, no school, and mounting questions. Baleadas just felt right.

And tonight, after we heard we weren’t having school again tomorrow, we knocked on our neighbors’ door to ask the family of three if they would like to have dinner with us on Friday night. You know, because that is normal and this is life here, with or without demonstrations and school and my own understanding of purpose.

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