Backyard gardens & fruit trees galore

It’s not exactly news that Chile exports a lot of fruit. But, even so, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t surprising when so many houses are blessed with backyards full of the fruits we go to the grocery store for… and that their trees drop so many lemons, avocados, oranges, figs, you name it, that they get put on the curb for neighbors to take, or simply serve as compost.

Such is the case of my friend Mauricio’s parents. One cold, fall day, he and I went over to keep his mom company. His mom is a very “chilean” mom, which means we got there and were immediately offered delicious, homemade food and then some conversation over coffee, and then the rest of the afternoon was followed with relaxation and her doting on us with random things. At one point she went to show me all the different fruits in the yard, so I could take produce home with me. As we walked around, I literally was dumbfounded by the fact that they really had little need to go to the grocery store – just for the legumes, carbs and proteins. Hands down, everything else was covered. So awesome.

They had many kinds of leafy greens, various root veggies, other veggies, garlic, chickens, all different herbs, trees of multiple kinds of avocados, pomegranets, peaches, nectarines, apples, lemons, oranges, figs, red/green grapes, quince (a fruit we don’t have at home), peaches, nectarines, and this doesn’t even complete the list. It was so awesome, to think about how amazing it would be to be able to go pick the fruits from your own trees, from your own garden, knowing and feeling good what you’re putting inside your body. Someday when I have a house, I will definitely have a big garden, but in Wisconsin, we are a bit limited when it comes to the trees and the fruits. But hey, I’ll get as close as I can get.

Later on, as it was chilly and I was sitting in front of the wood burning oven playing with the puppies, Mauricio mentions that I like bread haha.

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And so what does his lovely mother do? She decides to make bread, saying it will keep the house warm, smell good, and then I can take some home. Getting all the ingredients together, I then get an invaluable lesson on how to make pan amasado, the typical homemade, country style bread found in many chilean homes, especially during the cold weather months.

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I learned the techniques for kneading the bread, adding the hot water just when, rolling them into fluffy little balls and then doing a large circular motion with your hand as you roll it, then finishing it off by sticking your finger in the middle. I am not exactly sure why you stick your finger in teh middle, but I’ve learned to never question the age-proved family techniques. haha Then you flatten, poke the fork holes, and quickly get those babies to the oven. Sitting in front of the wood burning oven, or in the hammoc, smelling the heavenly scent of baking bread, playing with the puppies while you eagerly wait for those suckers to come out golden brown, ready for a little melted butter. OH LORD HELP ME! Life doesn’t get better than this.

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On a chilly day like today, I’m feeling like I need another bread-making, mouth-watering day of practice. Can you say yum?

It’s moments like this day where I really reflect on the quality of the foods I put in my body. I in general am a very conscientious eater, focusing on whole foods, balanced nutrition, un-processed, all that good stuff. But, of course, I can always do better. Here in Santiago I have so much access to fresh markets, which I am very grateful for, and I can, and should, do more cooking.

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