Thursday, March 10, 2011

Casabe...airport style

I know there are some people that do not get to visit TGU (the airport...aka Toncontin) very often, and even then quite a few that never walk through the basement of sorts that houses different expositions from time to time.

I saw this latest exposition while dropping off the group Saturday and decided to share with the rest of you the information shared...all about Casabe (bread made from yuca.) You can click on the pictures to get larger versions if you want to read in espaƱol, otherwise I'll translate the highlights:

The display starts with the history of how black slaves came to arrive in Honduras, in the first decades of the 16th century.

The Garifunas as an ethnicity came about in the first decades of the 17th century...the product of a racial mix between African slaves and the Caribeans from the island of Saint Vincent, where they took refuge, as castaways and from slavery.

In 1797 the Garifuna were expelled from Saint Vincent and taken to Roatan, arriving on April 12th. They then expanded to live all along the coast of Honduras. Today, they live in small villages in 47 different communities. Population figures today are aproximately 250,000 people.

Making Casabe is traditional and widely utilized on the North coast of Honduras, mostly for personal consumption (not necessarily for commercial production.)

All these slides and investigation were done by the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History, primarily because many arts like these can be lost over time.

The Garifuna diet is distinct...principal foods include yucca, coconut and fish.

Foods made from yuca are offered in religious rites, such as Dugu, Chugu and the so-called "bath of the soul."

Garifuna harvested yuca consists of two varieties...sweet yuca for making daily food and bitter yuca from which is made casabe.

Harvesting and planting yuca in this culture means using a system of allowing the land to be fallow for a time to be able to continue to use the land over and over for the same crop.

The men prepare the land, the women sew, take care of, and harvest...reflecting how important women are in this process.

Yuca was domesticated by precolumbian cultures, and the black africans, during their stay on the island of Saint Vicent, in addition to taking on other cultural norms also learned the process of cultivating and preparing yuca.

The women dig up the bitter yuca, taking it home where they peel it, and then wash with salt or fresh water, then grate, starting with small pieces and finsishing with the big pieces. The resulting dough is left in tubs until the next day, where it the dough is put into the body of the ruguma that hangs froma beam of the roof of the home.

In the lower part of the ruguma you place a stick that twists "the snake" squeezing out the dough until it is dry. The juice that is extracted is poisonous for domesticated animals, is used to make a special condiment.

The yuca paste or pasta is put into the cernidor to get the flour that is used to make the casabe.

Very early in the morning the oven inside the house is prepared to get the heat where it needs to be...taking about two hours. Then, the flour is spread on the "comal" while using your hand to give it a circular form with a special piece of wood specifically designed to smooth the surface and leave that side golden brown. Then you turn it over and add finer flour, and finally with a knife you cut off the outside edges and divide the "pie" into two or more pieces.

La Batea is a type of tray made of cedar or oak, made in different sizes. It is used for washing and peeling the yuca, as well to store the dough and yuca flour. It can also be used to store grain, washing and other uses.

Some of the instruments used for making casabe are made by men...and some only by women.

The "Rallador" (grater) or "eggui" is made out of wood, generally cedar, made of varying dimensions that depend on the need, but in the same general form.

A piece of rectangular wood is selected in which women or girls add small quartz stones, in a circular form starting from the center of the board. If the stones are not laid in a circular form, the grater won't work very well on the yuca.

The Ruguma...or "snake."

The ruguma is made from a spiny bush called "balaigre" (basketweed) that grows in the mountains.

From the balaigre you only use the bark, which you pull off with your mouth, or a knife, allowing the strips to dry for two days. Then you stitch together the snake, starting at the head and working the body in a circular form, that measures more or less two meters in length.

The ruguma is an indispensable instrument for making casabe, since you have to squeeze the dough to grate the yuca and it is only made by artisan men.

The Cernidor or "ibice"

This is also made from balaigre, much in the same way the ruguma, but you stitch together the strips in a cross pattern, starting in the center working your way out to the edges, making it into a circular form. It measures about a meter wide and is used to refine the yuca flour.

To bake the casabe the Garifunas have adopted a comal from the lid of a 55 gallon drum.

The colander is made of cedar wood and a fine wire mesh and is used to add flour to the casabe while it cooks.

The Baisaba, roughly translated "broom or carpet beater" is made from a special kind of palm, and looks like a broom and is used to give the circular form to the casabe and clean off the flour residue.

Pictures to show some of the process.

More pictures of how you make the ruguma.

1 comment:

Laurie Matherne said...

Very nice lesson. We would love for you to share with the MP kids one day.