Tag Archives: Paraguay

A trip to Paraguay

Previous stop: A trip to Ghana

There doesn't seem to be much advice out there about traveling to Paraguay—compared to its neighbors like Brazil and Argentina, or compared to other places I've considered traveling in my life. That's worth +10 points on my scorecard.

We picked Paraguay's name out of a hat, albeit a hat that only contained South America and Asia this time (so: random, but not random). Terra incognito—for me, at least, although it's home for millions. Here are just a few small things that I learned while filling in that part of my map. It's just a game—one day of doing, maybe one day of preparing—and the best part of the game, since it is impossible to learn very much in such a short time, is the occasional "oh that's very interesting" insight that plants itself like a small seed in your mind, perhaps bearing some kind of fruit later, perhaps not.

But yes—the "trip" itself.

This time I was in charge of doing the grocery shopping, and a good deal of the food and recipe finding (as if my Spanish is remotely functional anymore), so I didn't even really get the chance to learn much about Paraguay itself in addition to the pre-trip post. Instead, we outsourced that work to the late Anthony Bourdain, from his trip to Paraguay in 2014 (it's a full episode on YouTube, you'll have to buy it to see it):

That's a weak effort for learning about history and culture, so I'll pass along here a few unfinished notes:

Now, onto the food.

Listen: I have been converted. I never would have thought to myself, when thinking of a place to go, that I should try to make dishes from the place I'm going to go. Eat? Sure. Make? How? But the act of looking up what some of the essential dishes are, and trying to figure out how to acquire the odd ("odd") ingredients, and trying to find recipes and videos and advice, and then actually making the dish is, I think, a great way to gain some insight into the place, and to earn the interest that you've gained. What we make will never, ever be right, especially since we've never had any of these things before making them (aside from the empanadas, but I've never had any explicitly Paraguayan empanadas, whatever that might actually mean). The act of thinking and planning and searching and cooking—there's something more there than just consuming, even if it's wrong. (I sort of remember, while visiting Udaipur ages ago, that there were cooking classes that you could sign up for, and I never really thought about it at the time. I would certainly do that now.) Anyway, the point is: don't worry, make food.

We made four dishes:

  1. Sopa paraguaya - called a "soup", but it's a cornbread with eggs that give it a most non-cornbread texture.
  2. Soyo - a ground beef stew
  3. Empanadas - Paraguay dumplings
  4. Dulce de mamón - a desert made with mamón verde, which I couldn't find at Kirkwood's Global Foods Market, so I went with papaya instead
Corn meal for sopa paraguaya
Corn meal + eggs, cheese, milk, and onions
Empanada filling
Empanada filled
Empanadas joining sopa paraguaya for a few minutes in the oven
What can I say... soyo looks like something that you already ate, not something that you're preparing to eat, although it is delicious.
Papayas on their long, long cook
Yerba mate

Next stop: Paraguay

(Previous stop: Ghana)

On Wednesday, the next stop of our tour-around-the-world-without-actually-going-anywhere-game is Paraguay. Again: selected at random. Again: another country that I don't know anything about (didn't even know the capital city of Paraguay). I could tell you a little about all of the surrounding countries but nothing about Paraguay itself. So: a lucky pick, a good opportunity to learn about a place that I otherwise wouldn't think about.

I'm looking for information in the usual places I'd look if I were actually traveling somewhere (and I've also been trying to codify that approach, because someday we'll go somewhere: Travel approach). If you've got any knowledge or experience about Paraguay—food, music, places to go, etc.—let me know and we'll add it to our itinerary.

Things that have immediately caught my eye that seem worth looking up:

  • 90% of the population can speak an indigenous language, Guarani
  • The Gran Chaco is a dry, wild area in the northwest, consisting of 60% of the land area of Paraguay but 10% of the population
  • Paraguay has 15 national parks and 1 World Heritage Site (and 6 others on the provisional list)
  • Haven't found much yet about which dishes, etc., are essential to Paraguay, but Recetas de Paraguay seems promising so far. I have discovered sopa paraguayo, but I don't understand it because sopa is soup but sopa paraguaya is some kind of bread (?).
  • ... and other notes here as I find them.