Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cassava bread In the Amazon

One day while we were in the Amazon we went to visit a village a further 2 hours up the river to where our lodge was.  The people living here were still living as their ancestors had for centuries, with the addition of some electricity and Internet.  Given these additions I wonder how hard it will be to keep the children of the village continuing this life style.

One of the staples of their diet is cassava.  The cassava plant grows easily here and matures in about  10 months. At the time of digging up the root tubers, a shoot is replanted, so that there will be another plant ready for harvesting in less than a year.  I do not have any pictures of the digging up of the cassava root as I was distracted by chickens and lost my way through the village.

I took this picture as they headed off, the next time I looked up there was no sight of them.  After what seemed like 30 minutes (probably closer to 5) I along with the monkey that had adopted me found them but missed the whole digging up demonstration, the tubers were peeled and sitting in a bowl of water. But I was relieved that this was not the last picture ever of my husband.

The young women demonstrating for us now took the tubers and grated them, using home made graters in a beautiful hollowed out length of mahogany.

I had a go at doing this and she made it look so easy, but it was much harder than it looked. She then placed the grated root into a long piece of woven palm fronds.

She rolled this up and squeezed all the liquid out.

Finishing off by hanging it up and twisting until all the liquid was squeezed out.

The next step was to sieve the grated cassava. She did all this with the practiced hands of someone who had done this a million times, it is such a joy to watch someone so skilled.

While this had been going on, in the corner of the hut was a fire with what looked like a pizza stone on it which had been heating up.  She now took the grated dried and sifted cassava and put some of it on this stone and smoothed it out.

She pressed this down with the bottom of a small bowl and then after a couple of minutes she lifted one side up and flipped it over.

Some how what looked like finely grated coconut had coalesced into what looked like a pizza bread.

We had this with some canned tuna and hot sauce and it made a perfect foil for these.  After we had eaten a fair amount of this our guide produced some chicken and rice that they brought from the lodge.

After lunch we went a little further up the river and explored some more ending up at a shamans house. The shaman came out to greet us wearing his regalia including a necklace made of jaguar teeth.

He talked through our guide explaining a little about what he does and his 40 year apprenticeship with his father. I was concerned about both visiting the village and the shaman, I was worried that it would be fake exploitative and a tourist trap. But though we were indeed tourists gawking at this very different way of life, we were the only tourists and these were real people living in a real village.  Our boat driver was from this village and it is jobs like his, and the tourists coming to visit, that helps keeps these communities viable.  By the time we left the shaman it was dark and it is only due to the expertise of the driver that I am alive today.  We were screaming along the river which is full of trees and logs that have fallen in causing many hazards and the necessity to regularly pull the outboard out of the water. We stopped to see owls, cayman (a type of alligator) when I would really have been happier if they had kept the lights forward in order to see where we were going.

When we arrived back at the lodge dinner was served along with a piranha that one of the other members of our group had caught that day.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gillian,

    Love the photos and description of the cassava prep.

    Glad you survived the trip!