Comida de Bolivia

Posted By: Grace Trammell

The first smell I detected when I entered Villa Alcira was the sweet scent of citrus. Dozens of grapefruits were scattered all over the ground, and many more were dangling in the trees above my head. I had only been off the boat for a couple of minutes before Joselo plucked a ripe one off a nearby branch and began to peel it for me. I watched intently as he carefully peeled all of the orange off the fruit until it was just a white ball. Then, he cut a hole at the very top and made little slits into the pulp of the fruit. When he squeezed it, the hole filled up with fresh grapefruit juice. It was one of the best thing I had ever tasted. It was perfectly sweet and tart at the same time, and best of all, it was grown locally. The grapefruits I eat at home are usually flown hundreds of miles until they arrive at our local Whole Foods. This one had grown just a couple feet from where I was standing. Next, Joselo picked a cacoa fruit. It is what chocolate is made of. It is not at all what you would expect chocolate to look like. The fruit itself was yellow-orange and when cut open, was filled with white seeds. Joselo showed me how to suck on the seeds, then spit them out once I had sucked the flavor out of them. They were fruity, and had an almost mango-papaya taste.
I am from Dallas, so trees that have fruit on them are a rare sighting, so I was super excited to see bananas, coconuts, limes, lemons, and oranges around every corner. One day I arrived at the lunch table to see everyone sipping out a large coconut they had just cut open. I have bought coconut water before, but it was ten times better fresh out of the coconut.

We also got to see some interesting foods on our hike through the Amazon. Our guide pointed out an acai tree, which is super tall with leaves only at the very top of the trunk. The blue-purple fruit was scattered on the ground and so cool to see in person. He also showed us a montacu fruit, which I have never heard of before. After peeling it, there is a small layer of edible fruit between the skin and the nut. We scraped the pulp off with our teeth, and it tasted like an almond in fruit form. Others thought it tasted like a less juicy mango or the white part of a coconut. He explained to us that you can open the large seed in the middle of the fruit and inside is oils that you can turn into shampoo. The guide also cut open a vine for us that had liquid inside that is apparently healing for our kidneys. It tasted like sweet water and was refreshing.

I think one of the coolest food experiences I had while in the village was eating with my host family. For dinner, she made fish that was caught in the local river, and a banana side dish that had come from the banana plant by her house. Accompanying our meal was chicharron, a delicious rice drink that tasted similar to apple cider. Although I am not a big fish person, it was so fresh and she cooked it deliciously so I ended up cleaning my plate. Over our breakfast of eggs from her chickens, fried bananas from the same banana plant, and rice that she grew, I asked what her favorite thing to cook was. She replied that she really enjoyed cooking chicken and rice, but as long as her ingredients were local she enjoyed cooking almost anything. She said she doesn´t like getting eggs at the market because she can taste the chemicals they use in them. I thought that was super cool that the villagers could pick everything fresh and found so many ways to use the same ingredients.
One group was able to try hot chocolate that a woman was making. She had been collecting cacoa beans for six months before she could make the drink. They said it tasted way different than traditional hot chocolate but it was still good. It wasn´t as sweet or rich, but everyone said it was such a cool experience.
I thought that the food wasn´t going to be amazing so I packed tons of energy bars, but I ended up not eating all of them because of how delicious the food ended up being. If I didn´t live in the city, I would honestly consider getting my own chickens or fruit trees so I could cook fresh meals as well. The idea of my food being grown locally is something I am definitely going to consider next time I go to the grocery store.

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