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From market to table: Cooking up a storm in Guatemala

September 20, 2013

Guest post by Jennifer Murch

Finding Harmony Blog is hosting a series of guest posts over two weeks on how to break out of food ruts & punch up mealtime with something a little different. Today we travel to Guatemala, courtesy of my neighbor, Jennifer Murch, a foodie for sure who has blogged at mama’s minutia since about 2008 with an excellent and extensive collection of original and adapted recipes. Jennifer and John have four children so cooking for six in Guatemala gets interesting …

From market to table

Friday morning, my husband and I walked into town. Once in town, we went our separate ways: him to pick up a box at the bus station and me to squeeze my way through the market and juggle money, list, umbrella, and big heavy bags of produce.

Fridays have become my main market day. We stop by the market for necessities on a daily basis, but even so, by the end of the week the refrigerator is pretty bare. All the vegetables and fruit that we eat come into our home in raw form and only as much as we can carry comfortably in our hands or haul in a taxi. In other words—there is no stockpiling bushels of potatoes, canning up jars of spaghetti sauce and peaches, or freezing bags of broccoli and blueberries.

This means there is nothing to pull from when making a meal. You want a green vegetable? Then buy a pound of green beans, snap them, and cook them up. Some fruit to round out a meal? Get a pineapple and chop-chop.

It’s taken me about seven months to get used to this new form of buying and cooking. I think I’m finally catching on.

Wednesday and Thursday are busy days at Bezaleel (school), leaving me with hardly any time to cook, let alone forage for food. So come Friday, the market is a priority.

Here’s what I picked up last week: 9 oranges, 3 pounds of potatoes, 4 pounds of apples, 1 bunch of squash leaves, 1 pineapple, 1 pound of onions, 2 pounds of tomatoes, 2 starfruit, 1 bag of tostados, 2 carrots, 1 cucumber, 1 punch of cilantro, 10 mandarin oranges, 3 limes, 2 tree tomatoes, 3 peppers, 1 pound of green beans, 4 peaches, 1 tayuyo, and 1 ounce of dried chilis.


Jennifer’s market finds.

After the kids got home from school, I spent the next several hours getting the food a step closer to being edible. I made a chili sauce, cut up a carrot for the kids’ snack, stewed the squash leaves into a soup (more on that later), cooked a pot of rice, and roasted some onions, peppers, carrots, zucchini, and a giant head of broccoli for the supper’s stir-fry. I also made a zucchini cake.

Saturday morning, the cooking storm continued with bread, a big pot of dried beans with onions, garlic, and dried chilis, pie crust (so an apple pie is just that much closer to being a reality!), and starfruit smoothies. I also put away the granola I had started the morning before. Oh, and there were breakfast pancakes, too.

There is still a lot of work to do to finish readying the market purchases for consumption: cutting up the pineapple (a simple task, but one I hate), that pie, snapping the green beans, and figuring out a plan for the potatoes, peaches, cilantro, limes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. But at least I’ve made a dent. The new week will begin with a well-stocked refrigerator—full of both cooked food and produce—and an overflowing fruit bowl.


Vegetable stir-fry

I think longingly of my freezers back home. Two big ones filled with containers of soup and pesto, bags of broccoli and peas and corn, jars of meatballs and roasted tomatoes, boxes of strawberries and applesauce! Just thaw, heat, and eat! What a novelty! What a luxury!

However, when I leave here I’ll probably miss the abundance of fresh food and the simplicity of having all my cooking options laid out right before my eyes on the concrete patio floor, no secrets, no surprises.

Neither style is easy. Both take work. In Virginia, my summers are crammed with growing, harvesting, and putting up. In Guatemala, I do it from scratch (minus the growing, thank goodness) on a daily basis.

What’s your method for getting fruits and veggies to the supper table? Do you buy lots of produce on a weekly basis, year round, cooking it up as you go? Or do you prefer to stockpile for quick meals?

From market to table (excerpted, with her permission, from mama’s minutia blog.)


Jennifer Murch. Photo by a daughter, if I remember correctly.

Jennifer Murch and family are currently finishing up a 9-month short term assignment with MCC in Guatemala at Bezalell School, after also serving with MCC in Nicaragua for three years when their oldest child was born 13 some years ago.  They serve as vocational arts facilitators with Jennifer’s main work being tutoring and teaching (and learning about) cooking in that setting.


Have you ever cooked in a setting other than North America? What did you learn?

Comment here to be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Whatever Happened to Dinner, which includes lots or recipes from other countries, along with traditional and southern U.S. cooking. You can share links to similar ideas here, or at my Whatever Happened to Dinner Facebook page, to be entered in the drawing. (Posts for the drawing will close Sept. 30, 2013, midnight).

And don’t forget to plan something special for Family Day, Monday September 23.  For more on my book, here are study questions, an interview with yours truly, two podcasts with the food editors and me, and a video book trailer.  Or think about who might like a copy of the Whatever Happened to Dinner book with about 100 recipes ranging from traditional/old time to foodie!   Order here.

Other posts in this series: Food Swaps. Supper Club.

  1. About the Murches’ stuffed freezers back home–one of the children was worried about his deer baloneys getting hocked. I didn’t go look. I think they’re still there.

    (This is a comment.)

  2. Love this comment. Maybe you’ll have to arrnage that yet. Ha. And thanks for the comment, I’ll put you in the pool!

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