Monday, May 16, 2011

I'm baaaaa-aaack

So, as anyone reading over on knows, I'm in Guatemala. It's one of the poorest countries in North America, and has some of the worst nutrition in the world, with something like 85% of the diet coming from corn.

So you'd think food would be cheap, right?

Like many things, it depends. You can get bread and cookies in the tourist areas for 5quetzals, or about 65 cents. If you get them from the *same ladies* in the main market, then they're only 2quetzals. And you're supposed to bargain, so they're probably actually only 1 or 1.5 each.

Pupusas (the local "pocket" food) are Q6 each in the tourist area, and something like 3 for 6 up in town. Veggies, fish, meat, grain... All like that. Of course, the poorest people usually also grow some or all of their own food, so the prices don't matter as much to them.

But they matter to me. If I had a kitchen (I don't right now) I could eat pretty well on us$1 a day. Ok, I could eat *really freaking well*. If I were willing to walk to the top of the hill each day and bargain for veggies, grain, and fruit.

The dependence on corn is interesting, really. It's crap for the environment--slash and burn and run the dirt into the ground before moving on causes more land slides. The corn has not the best nutrition. But the Maya creation myth (and all the spin off groups throughout the area) say people were created from corn, that it's where the blood and life and all that comes from. So corn isn't just food, it's religion. Which is kinda strange, actually.

I've never eaten someone's religion before....

Anyway, my *real* food budget has been wandering around $4 a day. Which is about minimum wage here. And it'd be really really easy to spend two or three times as much. $4 a day is a snack for breakfast (or a coke), a filling lunch, and maybe a small snack for dinner. I could eat more, but I'd have to hunt to keep it under $4 a day. If I ate chicken I could have two chicken meals a day for $4. Big ones, with sides and tortillas, and who knows what else.

To give you a better idea of what I'm spending, let's say I was spending about minimum wage each day back home for food. $7.25 an hour (I think that's it, right?), 8 hours... I'd be spending $58 a day. On a meal and two snacks. So tourist food is seriously spendy.

But even with all that, Guatemalan food is amazing, and if you can find a cookbook at the library with real recipes, totally try it. I bet it's even cheap back home. And here's one for vegans. I might take a cooking class next week, and if I do, I'll totally share recipes.


  1. oh how cool! I've been to Guatemala twice while adopting our daughter.

  2. It's a great place, right? Just very, very poor.

  3. Hee hee, 'run the dirt into the ground'. Where was it before that?

  4. Up on the side of some mountain somewhere, I'd assume or maybe floating off somewhere--they keep talking about cloud forests, maybe from there....

    Ok, so it's a bit of a metaphor fail, but it works, right?

  5. pupusas are awesome.
    if you can find some with Loroco, eat as many as you can. it's a vine, and you eat the flowers. and they are seriously the best thing i have ever eaten.
    i'm a long way from central america (a hop and a skip form detroit, MI) and they come in frozen, or canned, or some garbage like that, and they are still absolutely awesome.