Chepita is a great cook, but sometimes I try to provide the meal when we get together. Sooner or later the conversation always seems to turn to food. Over a lunch of what I call “flat chicken,” we discussed our favorite dishes with Jose and Chepita, long time friends who have become our second family in Cozumel.
The chicken that is first cut, than flattened over a wood-fired grill, is easy to find if you just follow the savory aroma. Shops sell a whole chicken, including rice, salsa, salad and tortillas for about $7 to $8. It seems like a bargain to me, but it’s way outside of the food budget for many families in Cozumel.
Chepita explained that the garden that we helped her create last February is now producing cilantro, radishes, onions and herbs to supplement their diets.
Several other families are also enjoying success with gardens that FOC helped them start. Charo’s family of 12 lives in a three-room house where they’ve created a garden in 5-gallon buckets despite and sandy and rocky ground. This approach helps prevent the precious, purchased topsoil from washing away during the rainy season.
Charo proudly showed me her banana tree, explaining how each tree produces only one bunch, then dies after sending up shoots for a new tree.
Learning how to grow some their own food is important to these families’ survival. In fact, sometimes garden produce is the whole meal.
“When we don’t have food in the refrigerator—no chicken, no potatoes—I make soup,” said Chepita. “Maybe I have a couple of eggs or a handful of pasta. I can feed the family with that and some things from the garden.”
The family she’s feeding typically includes some of the adult children and grandchildren. Here’s the recipe for soup as described by Chepita.
- Go to the garden and find some herba buena, cilantro and onion. Chop it up.
- Now fry two eggs if you have them. Chop them up.
- Bring a pan of water to a boil. Add some salt and some powdered chicken broth or a little tomato puree if you have it.
- Add in the eggs and garden things. That’s it.
“This is a poor person’s soup,” Chepita said. “But it has a rich flavor.”
I have no doubt about that. ~Phyllis from Nebraska