OK. Time to focus on food.
Paraguay is one of the many Latin American countries that takes its cultural influences from both indigenous peoples and Spanish explorers, as well as neighboring Brazilians. About 95% of the country is mestizo, which is pretty incredible, and as such, the Spanish of Paraguay derives lots of words from Guarani - in fact, Guarani is a co-national language along with Spanish. As it tends to be with many languages, you can usually tell a person’s class from their language; white collar classes tend to speak almost entirely Spanish (even if they can understand Guarani), and the lower classes will speak exclusively Guarani. Many of the lower classes are farmers or other types of land workers, and they grow one of the country’s most popular foods, corn. The sopa paraguaya recipe that follows is one of the most popular festival dishes to make; contrary to the translation (“Paraguayan soup”), it’s not soup; it’s cheesy, eggy, heart attack-inducing cornbread. Oh my. It’s almost like a delicious popover. Both dishes that I made take a Brazilian influence, being an egg and complex meat dish. I wasn’t worried where they came from, though - I had my friends Philipp and Sarah over and we chowed down on sopa paraguaya and albóndigas con arroz.
***As those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know, as I was cracking eggs, I discovered that all six of them were double yolked! How cool is that?!
Sopa Paraguaya (Paraguayan cornbread)
(adapted from http://www.food.com/recipe/paraguayan-cheese-cornbread-sopa-paraguaya-161878)
8 tablespoons butter, separated
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup grated Muenster
2 cups cornmeal
1 can corn kernals
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (I realized at the last minute that I didn't have any milk, so I used 3/4 cup of plain yogurt and 1/4 cup of water. It worked just fine.)
6 eggs, separated
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat half the butter in a pan and cook the onions over medium heat, until they are soft but not quite until they turn brown. Remove the pan from heat. In a separate bowl, mix the other four tablespoons of butter with the cheese and mix thoroughly. Add the Muenster, onions, cornmeal, corn, salt, milk, and egg yolks, and mix thoroughly. In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer (or by hand if you’re way more badass than I am) until soft peaks form.* Fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10” x 13” pan. Bake at 400 for 45-55 minutes (I baked it for 45 minutes), or until a toothpick comes out clean.
*To understand the various stages of egg white whipitude, check out this website (http://homecookingrocks.com/stages-in-beating-egg-whites/). When separating eggs, it is absolutely crucial that the egg whites are pure and unadulturated - if even the tiniest bit of yolk gets in them, they will not fluff up.
Albóndigas con arroz (meatballs with rice)
adapted from http://www.recetas.com/receta-de-Albondigas-con-arroz-7489.html**
1 tablespoon oil
½ small onion, diced
1 can tomato paste
3 small tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon oregano
½ small onion, diced finely
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown rice
Heat the oil in a pot, and add onion. Once the onion is translucent, add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir.
In a separate bowl, mix the ground beef with the flour, graham cracker crumbs, and onion. Season with oregano and salt, and then form little balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Place them in the pot and cover with the tomato sauce, and allow them to cook on low for about 35 minutes, or until they are brown all the way through.
Cook the rice according to the directions on the package. Serve with the albondigas.