Nacatamales, part 2 in Granada

Trip Start Feb 07, 2012
Trip End Apr 24, 2012

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Where I stayed
Casa del Agua

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Saturday, March 10, 2012

For months before leaving on our trip, I prayed that I would meet a beautiful local woman to teach me how to cook an authentic Nicaraguan meal.  As many of you know, I am most happy when I am in my kitchen, cooking for friends and family.  So, I put into my heart that I would learn from an expert how to make nacatamales.

Nacatamales are delicious cornflour, masa harina, meals wrapped up in banana leafs.  You can find them all over Nicaragua, steaming in a big huge pot at any park or market.  

When we got to Casa del Agua, I shared with Gerry my nacatamale quest.  He was eager to help fulfill my desire.  The next day, he told me that Isabel, the abuela (grandmother) of a woman who worked for Gerry would love to make nacatamales with me.  I would later learn from her, that she makes nacatamales every Saturday for her family.....I guess I found the right teacher!

Imagine a beautiful, kind, strong Nicaraguan grandma, and you are seeing Isabel.  (Dad, Aunt MaryAnn and Uncle Jimmy, let Aunt Isabel know I felt like I met her kindred spirit in Nicaragua!)  A kind face with a no-nonesense look about her when she was meandering the crowded alleys of the market.  She spoke zero English and had a high expectation that I would understand her Spanish, regardless of how fast she spoke.  she would repeat herself, but only at the same speed. :)  I had been through the local market twice before I went with her, but going with her was like being let into the secret chambers of the chaotic labyrinth.

Back in the kitchen, I watched in awe as this 70plus year old woman, I never did ask her age, worked with corm meal with 3 sticks of butter and then worked in water and milk.  She did this all with her hands for over 20 minutes.....we were making a batch big enough for my family, 2 German couples, Gerry, and Isabel's family.  While she worked her magic with the dough, I humbly chopped carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and peppers.....  When it came to wrapping them up, I watched carefully, as I didn't want to disappoint beautiful Isabel if she let me try.   She did let me have a go at it, and I pretty much bombed the test.  She spoke some "firm" grandmotherly Spanish at me, as she took the nacatamale from my hands and re-rolled it.  With my head bowed, I asked for anothe try, epic failure this time, as I got the same Spanish tone and THE FINGER WAG AND HEAD SHAKE....So, I resumed my place in the Nicaraguan kitchen to simple be the one to hand the chopped veggies to Isabel as she assembled and rolled the nacatamales.  She and I spent most of the day together, shopping, prepping the pork, and making the nacatamales.  AT the end of the night, i asked her if she was tired.  She said no, no.  I said "that was good.  I was tired for her."  She laughed a belly laugh that rang in my heart as I fell asleep.  

As for the nacatamales, they were delicious.  When I get home, I'll make some for you.

Paul also made a beautiful new friendship with Narlan, the man who gave him a lift from the supermercado.  He invited us to his home.  Paul went twice.  The boys and I went once.  We met his wife, his mother, his son, and his niece.  They all live together.  We went to the park that borders Lake Nicaragua together.  We gathered mangoes, as they fell from the trees there as well.  The boys played with their children on a true Nicaraguan playground.  It took ALL of my willpower to not hover over them as they played on the teeter-totter, which was definitely not built to American safety codes, rusty seats, handles, and it teetered to about a 75 degree angles...not kidding

Narlan and Michele send their son to a private school and have a real sense of pride for this huge accomplishment.  Michele works with people with special needs in Granda (this touched Paul's and my hearts)  she told me a lot about how little opportunity there is for anyone with special needs in Granada and mostly folks simply spend their time at home, with their families. 

Narlan stopped by again the next day to say good-bye to us.  His wife, Michele, is on FACEBOOK!  and, we hoped to stay friends with them forever...

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Pat Reno on

So, when will the indoor pool be installed!

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