Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A to Z Challenge: I is for the Strangest Thing I Ever Ate

I is For The Strangest Thing I Ever Ate

Longtime readers of this blog probably recall that years ago when I was young, adventurous, and oblivious to danger the spouse and I served as Peace Corp Volunteers in Nicaragua. We lived in a small, remote mountain town in the north of the country, well off the Pan-American Highway. There were no grocery stores, but just about every house on the corners of the streets had turned their front room into a "pulparia" and sold something. Our house was on a corner and if we left the front door open inevitably someone would walk in and ask if we had tomatoes, or onions, or some other commodity for sale. It took me awhile to figure out that Nicaragua had a whole different system for grocery shopping.

There was a butcher who killed a beef on the road in front of his house. Buyers brought their tin pans and carried home fresh cuts. I discovered that the hardware store was a reseller and if I purchased my beef from them, it would come packaged in a plastic bag. There was no need to view the actual carcass. It was well worth the small markup.

When we purchased eggs, they were usually wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks like a tamale. I think this was because they were brought to town to sell by campesinos from the countryside and made the journey by burro.

I bought fresh tortillas from a neighbor, handmade and warm from a wood stoked fire.

It was rare to get chicken and the only fish was dried and salted.

My family says I'm a picky eater; I prefer to think that I am discerning. I am not an adventurous eater. Although I am not a big fan of McDonalds, I have to admit that I have eaten there in more countries than I care to name. Not because I love the food, but because it's familiar.  There was a McDonald's in Nicaragua, but it was an eight hour bus ride from our town.

So... one day Pablo, a neighborhood kid who had appointed himself as our personal guide and community liaison, brought us a bowl of soup from the lady who owned the hardware store.

"It's delicious," he tells us, "Dona wants you to try it."

 I am apprehensive, but the spouse jumps right in.
"It's pretty good," he says "Tastes like chicken."
I finally agree to try one spoonful...and it tasted like chicken.

We tell Pablo to thank Dona for us and tell her it was very good.

The next day I'm in the hardware store and the owner asks me, "How did you like the iguana?"

Yep, I is for Iguana!


  1. What a fine description of the Nicaraguan experience! Why does every meat that we don't recognize taste like chicken? :-)

  2. So you had it once and like it? So... did you have it again? ;-)

  3. Your Peace Corp adventure sounds wonderful. My cousin was also in the Peace Corp when she was young. She was stationed in Malaysia and loved it. She still meets with a group of the volunteers every year for a get together. As for iguana soup, I guess it would be similar to turtle soup? (not that I've ever had either)

  4. No thanks, Iguana is definitely out of my comfort zone.

  5. I might not have survived. Cooking must have been a real challenge.

  6. Not sure I'd have even tried it despite possibly risking insulting her. My plan would've been to cook all my own meals with ingredients I could identify! I think not being sure of what it really was but trying it anyway is the definition of an adventurous eater. Kudos to you!


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