This article appeared in the Ames Tribune Newspaper on June 9, 2008
Cooking an ‘American’ Dinner for Panamanian Guests
Jeff was talking to Jeni and she basically invited herself over for dinner to find out if she liked the kind of food we cook. Jesús (age 8) and Sigera (age 5) also invited themselves. I made vegetarian spaghetti sauce with pasta and some onion/wheat/oat bread.
Knowing that Panamanians were coming to dinner, I also made rice. The plates were 1/3 rice, 1/3 pasta, 1/3 sauce and a wedge of bread. To make it more American, I gave them all forks. Normally every food is served with a large tablespoon. Jesús picked all the onions out of the sauce and Sigera wouldn’t eat the pasta. Really, what kind of kid doesn’t like pasta?
Jeni ate everything but the bread which she said she would take home to Jorge (her husband). He was invited, but he didn’t come. Something about a cock fight. I think our meal was sufficiently weird to be an ‘American’ experience.
The next day Jorge and Junior took Jeff to ‘lava oro’ (wash gold). This involves making a wall of rocks under the water in the river. Then they dig a hole. The sediment that builds in the hole is what they wash. Washing involves using a plate shaped like a coolie hat, the type Asian rice farmers wear in the movies. For the four hours Jeff was with them, they found only several flakes of gold. They say they sell the gold in Panama City.
Foy and Jeff are Peace Corps volunteers in central Panama, some 40 miles northeast of Panama City. They live in a town of about 50 people that has no electricity. Their Peace Corps assignment is from May 2007 to Aug. 2009.