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Under the mango tree is where you’ll find me

A villager prepares lunch in the home’s kitchen. | Courtesy photo

We just returned from a week in Honduras where we mixed some mission work with food and fun. Flying into San Pedro Sula, the second largest city after the capital of Tegucigalpa, we loaded into our waiting vans for the two-hour drive to La Entrada, our base for the week. Bounding down the best road in Honduras, my husband hit a king-sized pot-hole and burst the rear tire – no simple flat for him. Despite promises from the rental company to bring a new tire mañana, we were destined to drive on the doughnut spare for the rest of the week. Mañana never came.

Sunday was two worship services. The first was in the morning at the high mountain village of El Carmen where we would be working with the people for the week. The service was held in the house of the lay leader next to the lot where we would be helping to build a church. The second service in the evening was at another mountain village, Chalmeca, where there was already a church building. Both were a mixture of the formal Anglican service with a local celebratory exuberance – dancing, too. Music was provided by the local priest’s oldest son, Carlos, who was a talented singer and keyboard player. The congregation kept time with what we later termed the “tortilla clap” – a clap, but with alternating hands the same way the women would make the tortillas.

Monday began the workweek. Breakfast was eggs (scrambled or fried) covered with a warm salsa, bacon, fried plantains and refried beans and tortillas. Fresh orange juice and, of course, coffee, as Honduras is a major coffee producer. My husband found that he liked the local habernero hot sauce (Don Julio), and we bought a couple bottles to bring home. (But Tabasco is still his favorite.) I was not able to get exact measurements for the ingredients for the warm salsa, but you can easily guess the amount you want to make with the amount of tomatoes you use.

Warm Tomato Salsa

Chop finely some garlic and onions and cook them briefly in a small amount of olive oil. Add chopped fresh tomatoes that have been seeded and skinned and cook until the juices run clear, you can add ketchup if you need some more sauce or the sauce is not runny enough. It is that simple. If you want some additional flavor, add green peppers or hot peppers or cilantro.

You can use it on anything you like, but I thought it went very well with the scrambled eggs, and tomatoes are coming in right now.

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Our men worked with the locals laying the concrete blocks of the walls of the church. They managed to get about two thirds of the building up. Why did the rear wall and the south corner get finished first? It was under the mango tree. Actually the shade of the mango tree was even cooler than the house where we women worked with the local women on a craft project – making yoyos to decorate flip flops and broaches (I thought yoyos were toys but these are cloth constructions of various sizes). I was supposed to be teaching but had to learn it at the same time. Some of the women took to the work with ease, and at the end, we bought some of their best work to sell back in the states. The women are uneducated and relegated to the house so hopefully this might develop into some sustainable, useful income producing project. In the afternoon, we had Bible school with the children. Word got out, and the place overflowed with 139 children the second day. We ran out of food for lunch.

I spent some time with the women in the kitchen. I was fascinated by the machine they had to grind the corn every day to make tortillas. All was cooked on an open flame in a wood fired stove.

Our best dinner was beef with a jalapeño sauce, sliced avocado, rice and black beans, fried plantains (black beans and plantains show up with nearly every meal) and sliced fruit – watermelon, mango, papaya and banana.

Jalapeño Sauce

Use a can of mushroom soup and puree, and then add cream. Mix together with some sliced jalapeno peppers. The amount is up to you. They also use a mushroom bouillon cube, which we do not have here in the states, but perhaps you could find at a Latin American grocery. It is another sauce that could be used on other things as well as meat.

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We all had lunch one day at a place called “Power Chicken.” The place was like a fast food joint, but the chicken was supposedly grown on organic farms. The chicken was some of the best I have ever had. Served with the meal were beans and rice, tortillas and a tray of 20 different condiments from hot to mild.

We tempered work with a little play on the last day when we went to the Mayan ruins at Copán. We had a Mayan guide who led the tour of this unearthed ruin from the seventh century. Copán is one of the grandest and most magnificently preserved of all Maya ceremonial cities. It was discovered in 1839, and archeologists are still unearthing parts of the city.

After lunch, some went shopping in the charming cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas. Several went on a zip line, about 16 stations going down a mountain taking about one to two hours. It crossed deep ravines, a river and gave a view of the ruins from above. A slight accident happened when one member couldn’t stop coming into a station and rammed into another who was not yet unhooked from the line, knocking her into a tree. After a bit, both were able to continue the zip line with help (that is the only way down; walking is not an option.) They both limped for the remainder of the trip.