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Make Use of What You Have…Nothing Wasted   Leave a comment

A Christmas Delantal


Christmas apron (delantal) Irene made herself

Today Irene finished sewing together something she started a few days back.  Now that Christmas was over, she reviewed her now larger

inventory of napkins, tables cloths, and sundry Christmas-colored items in the broken down top-open freezer at the back patio, now utilized as a fantastically weather-proof storage closet.  Irene made use of the extra Christmas fabric to make a half-apron with pockets, known as a delantal (see blog) in El Salvador.

She pieced together some other pieces of fabric, along with the main Xmas theme fabric, to creat ethe ruffles on the bottom, and waistline band with fabric long enough to tie it in the back.  The other day Irene made use of discarded jean pant legs to create a satchel for use in hunting and fishing.  The small sack can hold rocks used to fling at small birds and game in a slingshot, called an “hondilla” (pronounced ‘ohn-dee-ah’ here, or maybe several new (“tierno”) green mangoes, which are eaten with ground up squash seeds, called, a very popular snack in Central America.  I can’t eat the mangos tiernos, as they are super sour, I think it’s a taste you grow up with.

Barbie Outfits
The other day, I ran into a girl in the neighborhood playing barbies.  I was surprised at how many she had – 4 in total, all with beautiful blond hair and pink rosy white skin, looking like a “Real American” as many Salvadoran’s here believe a real live American looks like.  I commented on their “chic” outfits, and was amazed to learn she had “made” her barbie’s outfits out of cloth remnants, cut and ripped from dicarded clothing. One barbie had knee length tights with a skirt over them, then another shorter skirt on top.  One of the skirts had a type of flower fashioned on it, with a tiny piece of fabric peeking out of a hole that was either already there or intentionally placed.  I was fascinated at her abilitity for invention.  She is about 12 years old.  I told her keep desiging clothes, you have talent.

Little is wasted in rural El Salvador.    Certainly foolish or frivolous purchases are made here, like anywhere else in the world; such as a penchant here for fancy cell phones, but when it comes to food and basic staples, the name of the game is “use only what you need.”

All food is eaten here, usually right when it’s cooked.   Most meals are made for a large group of people. There is always enough for everyone, even if it means stretching the food out and sharing more, which is helped by filling up on tortillas – most men can eat four or five at a meal.

The meat is almost always chicken, usually free-range or “Gallina India” (Indian Hen) as it’s called here.  The chicken is cooked in either a soup, a sauce (guisado), or occasionally, grilled.  Soup or Guisado suits a larger group best, as the meat can be thinned out and mixed with vegetables like potatoes and guiskil (chayote).

Food is NEVER wasted here.

In El Salvador, you do not see plates with large amounts of uneaten food brought into a kitchen and dumped into a garbage can.  NEVER.  Waste from vegetables like skins and ends is thrown to the chickens; bones and scraps are fed to the dogs.

Vegetable Truck
Irene asks the vendor for discarded cabbage leaves and other “monte” (leafy parts) that won’t be sold, and gives it to her chickens as feed.

Squirrel Away
Niña Irene* squirrels away ‘special’ food when it comes along, like chicken brought by someone from Pollo Campero, or fresh cheese, like cuajada.  It’s  perfectly normal, but gets interesting in her case, because she doesn’t have a refrigerator!  And because there are 5 people living in her house on less than  $300 a month, she is clever to hide things well to avoid disputes or thievery.   They had a refrigerator years back which burnt out;  Irene refuses a new one even as a gift, as it would send her light bill through the roof.

When helping Irene clean after major holidays you’ll suddenly happen upon food furrowed  into nooks and crannies Irene designates for her treasures-to-eat-later:  meat wrapped in a napkin or kitchen towel, a sweet and sticky something in a jar missing its cover and topped with something else, cheese in a plastic tub, etc.   The leftover drumstick from yesterday and then some makes us nervous, but she’s made it this far, alive and well.

* Niña Irene is my mother in law

Niña and Don: In El Salvador, when a woman reaches an age of maturity, say after a few kids or well over the age of 40, people often refer to her as “Niña so-and-so”.  Likewise, men are referred to as “Don + first name” but often get the title at a younger age.

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