Food (The Second Course)

6 de Junio

Country/Day: Guatemala/23

Bikes Fixed: 34

Bikes/Day Average: 1.48

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So that makes it… more appetizing?

I decided to stop putting up the number of bicimaquinas I’ve built because, well, it less than one, and it wasn’t going up. To be clear, bicicletas (regular bicycles) come first. Bicimaquinas are extra. It’s likely I’ll get back to them later in the trip, but given the shipment of 300+ bicycles from Bikes Not Bombs a few weeks ago, we’ve enough bicycles on our hands to last a while.

Anyways, this will be another post about food.

“Another one, Kyle? Gee, there must be a lot of food there.” Well, yes… yes there is. That’s one reason. The other is it’s easy to write about, and I’ve sort of been constantly recharging since I’ve got here. I’ll write more about this later, but essentially, there’s a lot to get used to, and the fact that I don’t get much sleep really tops it off (I was woken up at 5:15 this morning by some fireworks, aside from the regular noise the ducks make, and sleeping on an air mattress on a tile floor). But I promise that once I get things figured out (which may involve convincing Carlos to invest in a mattress) I will write about other things. Namely, I’ve got to do my synopsis of his shop, how bicycles and the bicimaquinas fit into the way of life here, what the Saturday market is like, and probably a “short stories” post or two.

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(singing) Oh chicken salad…

(points if you know the reference)

So first off (but without a doubt the least important): Chicken. Chicken is huge here. It’s… well, it’s the chicken of the south. The rice of China. The baguette of France. The beer of Germany. The funny part is there’s a lot of advertising around it, and I don’t think it’s at all necessary. Chicken is just a part of the way of life here. I don’t know if it’s the easiest meat for them or what, but everybody loves it. Anyways, some of the chicken places use photos of Chicken Little, from his own movie, Chicken Little, to appeal to people (see first photo above). I think is hilarious, because it doesn’t make me want to eat chicken. He looks horrified in a sort of cartoony way… (he is, after all, a cartoon). I don’t know if that’s supposed to make it easier to accept the fact that you killed a cartoon character or what but… anyways.

For my part, I’m not much of a chicken person. I’m not really a meat person, actually. It’s not that I’m vegetarian, I just don’t like meat very much. So it took me a while to figure out places to eat… because the most obvious places to eat are the burger-and-french-fry places (I mentioned this in my last post about food). Anyways, I asked Carlos about it, and he suggested a restaurant called Chiqui’s (pronounced “cheeky’s”).

Chiqui’s is a godsend.

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As proof, the wall behind me is covered in Jesus posters.

It’s a nice lady named… you guessed it… Chiqui. Her husband, dressed in slacks, seats you in their living room, and she comes out and suggests things to you depending on what she has. The interesting thing is that they are only “officially” open for lunch. Carlos said for dinner, I had to knock. Since I eat lunch at work, I’ve only been there for dinner. After inspecting me through the window, Chiqui’s husband seated me, and then out came Chiqui.

(by the way, there aren’t really “menus” in Guatemala. There are sometimes price boards, but don’t expect to get to sit down and look up every word you don’t know… for the most part the chef will tell you what’s available, and if there’s a line, you have to make up your mind pretty quick. So far I haven’t ordered anything I haven’t liked, but sometimes it’s anybody’s guess what I order for myself. I haven’t gotten all the food words down… there are a lot of them.)

So basically, it’s home cooking… Guatemalan style.

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Beef spinach with a side of refried beans and rice.

One of the cool things about eating in Guatemala is that it’s cheap. To date I haven’t paid more than Q18 (about $2.50) for a meal. Sometimes this almost makes sense – it means fried food, for instance, is really expensive (compared to, say, the dollar menu at McDonald’s, the price might even be the same. This is better than McDonald’s, but it’s still fried food). Usually though, it’s a really good deal. Chiqui’s, for instance, is Q15 ($2) every single time. Ya. Awesome.

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Chili patties… with a side of beans and rice.

The Q15 includes a main course, a side of rice and beans, some bread (or tortillas, but I always have those for lunch, so I opt for bread), and coffee. If she’s feeling generous, she’ll throw in some sweet bread for dessert. Did I mention it’s awesome? On top of that, Chiqui is really nice. It makes me really happy just to go and talk to her, and she’s patient with my elementary Spanish.

As you saw above, Maria (Carlos’s wife) did do something beside the usuals for lunch one day – hot chicken salad. Admittedly, nothing you couldn’t get in the states (thought being it was homemade, it was pretty good), but worth mentioning. Oh, and yes, it did come with tortillas.

Also, I haven’t taken photos of the burgers, because… they are burgers.

The only downside to the meals here is the portion size. I think it’s because, despite being cheap, food is still labor-intensive. Especially after India, where the name of the game is “eat until you explode,” I constantly find myself hungry. Even without India as a reference, I’m a heavy eater with rediculous metabolism (a girlfriend once called me, affectionately of course, “the garbage disposal”) so I’m still trying to figure out those “filler” foods (I’ll talk about oatmeal in a bit here).

But what of desserts? There’s always sweet bread, and chocolate is available, though expensive. There’s also a cake shop which sells slices of cake for Q6 (about $0.80)… not bad, but still a but expensive in my opinion. No, my favorite thing to do is to get choco fruita. What does this mean? Well…

–        Take some fruit

–        Freeze it

–        Dip it in chocolate fondu, which promptly freezes over it

–        Eat it

There’s a shop in the center of down that does everything from choco banana to choco papaya to choco fresco (strawberries)… there’s a list of about ten fruits they’ll do. Most cost Q1 ($0.12) but the smaller ones (two strawberries, for instance) are Q0.50. You can also pay Q1 extra to dip it in mani, or (crushed) peanuts.

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omg.

So good… so cheap. If you eat it right away the chocolate will melt in your mouth, but you have to work at the fruit a bit. The fruit is usually overripe, so if you let it thaw a bit, it will melt into your mouth with the chocolate. It’s easy to let it get too far though, and I mean… chocolate… I’m impatient.

For snacks and whatnot, I’m happy to say I found a place that sells pizza by the slice – sort of. It’s Q10 (about $1.40) for three slices of pizza. They aren’t huge slices, but still worth it every now and then, especially if it’s the only source of “real” cheese available. For those of you who don’t know, cheese is my favorite food, and when not on pizza the only cheese you can get is queso fresco – cheese with a more powdery consistency and a bit of alcohol to keep it from spoiling (refrigeration is expensive). It’s alright, but not the same. At all. Not even close (yes, I am a cheese fanatic).

– – –

As far as cooking at home goes, not much has changed. I was able to buy a metal spatula, which has helped with the… er… the “frying pan,” if you could call it that (I’d use some choice words if it were up to me). Before the spatula it was a bamboo stick or a fork, either of which resulted in lots of burnt stuff. Just today, however, I was able to hunt down a nonstick frying pan (don’t worry mom, I bought a plastic spatula to go with it)… CANNOT. WAIT. to cook something that isn’t partly burnt. Namely, french toast. That’s right. I have a craving. Also, it will be a nice break from plain eggs and plain bread while still using both of them (they are staples here).

I also found out you can get oatmeal, which has always been a staple of mine (my favorite staple, by the way, is pasta with veggies and cheese, but without the cheese, it’s just not the same. So much so that I’m trying to get the pizza place to sell me cheese). It’s actually a bit more expensive here than in the US, at Q9 ($1.20) a small bag (about 5 servings), whereas you can get a gallon can in the states (about 20 servings) for $2-3… if my memory serves me. Not bad, but still interesting.

Is it cheating if I cook the things I’d cook anyways? I have Guatemalan food at lunch and sometimes at dinner… and sometimes it’s not all that different from North American food (“North American,” by the way, apparently means everything above Mexico. Yay for political correctness!).

As a bonus, the peach trees are starting to ripen, and there’s a crab apple tree in the yard, too.

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Carlos takes most of them, but I did get a few to munch on. No complaints here – fresh peaches! And no chemicals. Hmm…

Okay, that’s all for now. This weekend I plan on visiting either Antigua or Chimaltenega, so I’ll have stories to tell. I have other travel plans, too – Lake Atitlan, a volcano or two, an adventurous bike ride through the countryside. You know, the usual – but also other weekends, so there’s no rush. Worst case, I’ll take a week off before heading home.

‘Till next time – probably late this weekend.

2 thoughts on “Food (The Second Course)

  1. Jenna says:

    I WANT TO GO TO THERE! Anywhere where you can get 3 slices of pizza for $1.40 and all other meals of delicious rice and beans for $2 sounds like my kinda place. (Can you just pay $4 and eat twice as much?) I also happen to love queso fresco, so I think I’d get by on the cheese front.

    Also, you’ve clearly been out of the country for too long… Here in “North America” a piece of cake costs like 3 or 4 times that much! No fair…

  2. Marilyn says:

    The sun and good food must be getting to you. A pound bag of cheese here is $5 on sale. The chocolate covered fruits sound delicious. Glad you’re cooking French toast – that has always been one of your favorites. The portion sizes look generous to me – your metabolism must still be revving from your 4,400 mile bike ride. Enjoy Antigua or Chimaltenega.

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