Jul 092015
 

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Today is Independence Day in Argentina, one of the biggest celebrations in the country (akin to 4th of July in the U.S.). To celebrate I am going to post mostly in Spanish. The recipe at the end is in English. If you are Spanish challenged you can hit the TRANSLATE button on the sidebar on the left.  It’s slightly complicated because WordPress does not think this is in Spanish so does not give you an English option, so you have to first “translate” into Spanish, and then press “English.”  Or you can just skip to my empanadas recipe.  The Spanish text basically says that delegates met in San Miguel de Tucumán to sign a declaration of independence from Spain on 9 July 1816, which precipitated a war with royalists and Spanish forces in South America that Spain eventually lost.

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La Declaración de Independencia de la Argentina fue una decisión tomada por el Congreso de Tucumán que sesionó en la ciudad de San Miguel de Tucumán de las entonces Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata. Con dicha declaración se hizo una formal ruptura de los vínculos de dependencia política con la monarquía española y se renunció a toda otra dominación extranjera. Fue proclamada el martes 9 de julio de 1816 en la casa propiedad de Francisca Bazán de Laguna, declarada Monumento Histórico Nacional en 1941.

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En 1814, el rey Fernando VII había regresado al trono de España. Esta situación quitó argumentos de acción a los hombres que habían iniciado la Revolución de Mayo e instaurado la Primera Junta —y los gobiernos que habían sucedido a ésta— bajo la premisa de la Máscara de Fernando VII.  Ya no podían actuar en nombre del rey de España porque éste volvía a estar en el poder efectivo. España quería reconquistar sus colonias; los realistas (los partidarios del colonialismo) habían triunfado en Huaqui, Vilcapugio y Ayohúma, y eran fuertes en el Alto Perú, la actual Bolivia. Desde allí pensaban atacar las bases de los independentistas e invadir todo el territorio de Argentina teniendo como objetivo la ciudad de Buenos Aires.

El 15 de abril de 1815, una revolución terminó con el gobierno unitario de Carlos María de Alvear. Los revolucionarios exigieron la convocatoria de un Congreso General Constituyente. Inicialmente se enviaron diputados de todas las provincias iniciando las sesiones el 24 de marzo de 1816. Cada delegado representaba 15.000 habitantes.

El Congreso de Tucumán inició sus sesiones el 24 de marzo de 1816 con la presencia de 33 diputados. Según la decisión de los propios delegados, la presidencia del Congreso era rotativa y cambiaba cada mes.

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Fueron distintas las causales por las que no enviaron diputados diversas provincias que habían pertenecido al Virreinato del Río de la Plata.

Varias provincias del Alto Perú, entre ellas Potosí, Cochabamba, La Paz y Santa Cruz de la Sierra, habían caído nuevamente en poder de los realistas. Empero gracias a la Tercera expedición auxiliadora al Alto Perú enviaron diputados Chichas, Charcas y Mizque.

Distinta fue la situación de las provincias “de abajo”. Salvo Córdoba, las provincias de la Liga de los Pueblos Libres o Liga Federal —que estaba compuesta por la Banda Oriental, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Misiones y Santa Fe— resolvieron no concurrir al Congreso de Tucumán ya que a la oposición del caudillo oriental José Gervasio Artigas a la ratificación definitiva del acuerdo de paz alcanzado en el Pacto de Santo Tomé, firmado el 9 de abril de 1816, por el que se había reconocido la autonomía de Santa Fe, se sumó la negativa tanto del nuevo Director Supremo, Antonio González Balcarce como del Congreso de Tucumán.2 3 Esta fue una clara manifestación de protesta y oposición hacia las políticas centralistas o unitarias y pro monárquicas tanto del Directorio como del Congreso de las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata.

En cuanto al Paraguay, esta provincia actuaba como un estado independiente desde 1811, en que se había independizado de España, ante las actitudes centralistas de los sucesivos gobiernos establecidos en Buenos Aires.

Los actuales territorios de la Patagonia, el Comahue y el Gran Chaco se encontraban bajo el dominio indígena o deshabitados.

En una de sus primeras decisiones, el Congreso nombró Director Supremo de las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata a uno de sus diputados, el general Juan Martín de Pueyrredón.

Durante varias semanas se discutieron los alcances de sus atribuciones y su funcionamiento interno, además de tomar decisiones de política nacional e internacional. El cuerpo tenía la facultad de intervenir en casi todos los asuntos que se presentaban a su consideración, lo que provocó interminables debates.

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La presión de algunos de sus miembros, y de influyentes dirigentes nacionales —entre ellos el general José de San Martín, gobernador de la Intendencia de Cuyo— hizo que se iniciara la discusión sobre la Declaración de Independencia.

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La votación finalmente se concretó el 9 de julio. En ese momento presidía el cuerpo uno de los representante de San Juan, Francisco Narciso de Laprida. Ningún país reconoció en ese momento la independencia nacional.

El 21 de julio fue jurada la Independencia en la sala de sesiones por los miembros del Congreso, ante la presencia del gobernador, el general Manuel Belgrano, el clero, comunidades religiosas y demás corporaciones.4

Las discusiones posteriores giraron en torno de la forma de gobierno que debía adoptarse para el nuevo Estado. La situación de guerra abierta con la monarquía española y la creciente injerencia del Reino Unido de Portugal, Brasil y Algarve hizo que, tácticamente, muchos de los que podían tener simpatías por el federalismo, decidieran abroquelarse monolíticamente en una especie de “unitarismo” coyuntural ante los ataques externos.

Las labores del Congreso continuaron en Buenos Aires, donde comenzó a deliberar a principios de 1817, y donde sancionó la Constitución Argentina de 1819. El Congreso fue disuelto en 1820, tras la derrota del Directorio en la batalla de Cepeda, que marcó el inicio de la Anarquía del Año XX.

En la benemérita y muy digna ciudad de San Miguel de Tucumán a nueve días del mes de julio de 1816: terminada la sesión ordinaria, el Congreso de las Provincias Unidas continuó sus anteriores discusiones sobre el grande, augusto y sagrado objeto de la independencia de los pueblos que lo forman. Era universal, constante y decidido el clamor del territorio por su emancipación solemne del poder despótico de los reyes de España, los representantes sin embargo consagraron a tan arduo asunto toda la profundidad de sus talentos, la rectitud de sus intenciones e interés que demanda la sanción de la suerte suya, pueblos representados y posteridad. A su término fueron preguntados ¿Si quieren que las provincias de la Unión fuese una nación libre e independiente de los reyes de España y su metrópoli? Aclamaron primeramente llenos de santo ardor de la justicia, y uno a uno reiteraron sucesivamente su unánime y espontáneo decidido voto por la independencia del país, fixando en su virtud la declaración siguiente:

Nos los representantes de las Provincias Unidas en Sud América, reunidos en congreso general, invocando al Eterno que preside el universo, en nombre y por la autoridad de los pueblos que representamos, protestando al Cielo, a las naciones y hombres todos del globo la justicia que regla nuestros votos: declaramos solemnemente a la faz de la tierra, que es voluntad unánime e indubitable de estas Provincias romper los violentos vínculos que los ligaban a los reyes de España, recuperar los derechos de que fueron despojados, e investirse del alto carácter de una nación libre e independiente del rey Fernando séptimo, sus sucesores y metrópoli. Quedan en consecuencia de hecho y de derecho con amplio y pleno poder para darse las formas que exija la justicia, e impere el cúmulo de sus actuales circunstancias. Todas, y cada una de ellas, así lo publican, declaran y ratifican comprometiéndose por nuestro medio al cumplimiento y sostén de esta su voluntad, baxo el seguro y garantía de sus vidas haberes y fama. Comuníquese a quienes corresponda para su publicación. Y en obsequio del respeto que se debe a las naciones, detállense en un manifiesto los gravísimos fundamentos impulsivos de esta solemne declaración.” Dada en la sala de sesiones, firmada de nuestra mano, sellada con el sello del Congreso y refrendada por nuestros diputados secretarios.

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El 19 de julio, en sesión secreta, el diputado Medrano hizo aprobar una modificación a la fórmula del juramento, con la intención de bloquear algunas opciones que se contemplaban en aquel momento por las que se pasaría a depender de alguna otra potencia distinta a la Española. Donde decía «independiente del rey Fernando VII, sus sucesores y metrópoli», se añadió:

“…y toda otra dominación extranjera”

El acta original, firmada por todos los miembros del Congreso, fue redactada en el libro de Actas de las sesiones públicas de dicha Asamblea. Ese libro se ha perdido. Algunos historiadores consideran que fue depositado en 1820 en la Legislatura de Buenos Aires, de donde posteriormente habría sido sustraído. En el Archivo General de la Nación Argentina lo que se conserva es una copia realizada por el secretario Serrano, a fines del mes de julio de 1816.

I’ve already given my recipe for empanadas here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/roberto-arlt-2/ but I thought I would add a recipe for a different filling to make empanadas tucumanas to honor the Congress of Tucumán. They are not very common, even in Tucumán, but delicious. The filling is like a mashed up version of Argentine matambre (which I will get round to providing a recipe for eventually). Matambre (“kill hunger) is a roulade of flank steak wrapped around boiled eggs and chopped vegetables which is poached then roasted, and cut into thin slices to be eaten plain or on toasted bread. This empanada filling adds extra ingredients.

9 de julio9

Empanadas Tucumanas (al horno)

Ingredients

900g precooked veal flank steak, minced
100g lard
150g chopped white onion
100g chopped green onion tops
10g sweet paprika
5g cumin
2 cloves of garlic, minced
30g plain flour
3 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

empanada dough (see below)

Instructions

Melt the lard over medium heat in a heavy skillet and sauté the white onions until soft. Add the meat and spices and warm through.

Add the flour to the filling and mix well. Then add the green onions and chopped eggs.

Fill the empanadas and bake in the usual way.

Empanada Dough (for baking)

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup lard, finely shredded
1 egg, beaten
pinch salt
water

Instructions:

Mix the egg with the salt and enough water to make ½ cup of liquid.

Work together the lard and flour with your fingertips, then add enough liquid a little at a time to form a soft, pliable dough. Knead the dough for a few minutes and then let it rest before rolling out on a floured surface as thin as possible and cutting into 6 in/15 cm rounds (or 4 in/10 cm for empanaditas).

 

Feb 042014
 

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Today is Independence Day in Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, an island country in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia; known until 1972 as Ceylon. Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest.

Sri Lanka has a long documented history that spans over 3000 years, and a much longer one in the archeological record. Its geographic location and deep harbors made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II. Sri Lanka is a diverse country, home to many religions, ethnicities, and languages. It is the land of the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Moors, Indian Tamils, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs, and the aboriginal Vedda. Sri Lanka has a rich Buddhist heritage, and the first known Buddhist writings were composed on the island. The country’s recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war which decisively, but controversially, ended in a military victory in 2009.

Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state governed by a presidential system. The capital, Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte, is a suburb of the largest city, Colombo. Sri Lanka is a major world producer of tea, coffee, gemstones, coconuts, rubber, and native cinnamon. Sri Lanka is sometimes known as “the Pearl of the Indian Ocean” because of its natural beauty. Sri Lanka has also been called the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” because of its shape and location. The island contains tropical forests and diverse landscapes with high biodiversity.

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In antiquity, Sri Lanka was known to travelers by a variety of names. Known in India as Lanka or Sinhala, ancient Greek geographers called it Taprobane, and Arabs referred to it as Serendib (the origin of the word “serendipity”). Ceilão, the name given to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese when they arrived in 1505, was transliterated into English as Ceylon. As a British crown colony, the island was known as Ceylon; it achieved independence as the Dominion of Ceylon in 1948.

In Sinhala the country is known as  ?r? la?k?, and the island itself as la?k?va. In Tamil they are both ila?kai. In 1972 the name was changed to Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic of Sri Lanka. In 1978 it was changed to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. While the name Ceylon still appears in the names of a number of organizations, in 2011 the Sri Lankan government announced a plan to rename all those over which it has authority.

The pre-history of Sri Lanka goes back 125,000 years and possibly even as far back as 500,000 years.The era spans the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and early Iron Ages. Among the Paleolithic human settlements discovered in Sri Lanka, Pahiyangala (named after the Chinese traveler ­monk Faxian), which dates back to 37,000 BP, Batadombalena (28,500 BP) and Belilena (12,000 BP) are the most important. In these caves, paleontologists have found the remains of anatomically modern humans which they have named Balangoda Man, and other evidence suggesting that they may have engaged in agriculture and kept domestic dogs for driving game.

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One of the first written references to the island is found in the Indian epic Ramayana, which mentions a kingdom named Lanka that was created by the divine sculptor Vishwakarma for Kubera, the Lord of Wealth. Kubera was overthrown by his demon stepbrother Ravana, the powerful emperor who built a mythical flying machine named Dandu Monara. The modern city of Wariyapola is described as Ravana’s airport.

Early inhabitants of Sri Lanka were probably the ancestors of the Vedda people, an indigenous people numbering approximately 2,500 living in modern-day Sri Lanka. Irish historian James Emerson Tennent theorized that Galle, a southern city in Sri Lanka, was the ancient seaport of Tarshish from which King Solomon is said to have drawn ivory, peacocks, and other valuables.

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According to the Mah?vamsa, a chronicle written in the P?li language, the ancient period of Sri Lanka begins in 543 BCE with the landing of Vijaya, a semi-legendary prince who sailed with 700 followers on eight ships 860 nautical miles to Sri Lanka from the southwest coast of what is now the Rarh region of West Bengal. He established the Kingdom of Tambapanni, near modern day Mannar. Vijaya is the first of the approximately 189 native monarchs of Sri Lanka described in chronicles such as the Dipavamsa, Mah?vamsa, Chulavamsa, and R?j?valiya. Sri Lankan dynastic history spanned a period of 2,359 years from 543 BCE to 1815, when the land became part of the British Empire.

The seat of the kingdom of Sri Lanka moved to Anuradhapura in 380 BCE, during the reign of Pandukabhaya. Thereafter, Anuradhapura served as the capital of the country for nearly 1,400 years. Ancient Sri Lankans excelled at building certain types of structures such as tanks, dagobas (burial mounds), and palaces. The society underwent a major transformation during the reign of Devanampiya Tissa, with the arrival of Buddhism from India. In 250 BC, Bhikkhu Mahinda, the son of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka arrived in Mihintale, carrying the message of Buddhism. His mission won over the monarch, who embraced the faith and spread it throughout the Sinhalese population. Succeeding kingdoms of Sri Lanka maintained a large number of Buddhist schools and monasteries and supported the spread of Buddhism into other countries in Southeast Asia. Sri Lankan bhikkhus (ordained monks) studied in India’s famous ancient Buddhist University of Nalanda which was destroyed by Mohammed Kilji. It is probable that many of the scriptures from Nalanda are preserved in Sri Lanka’s many monasteries. In 245 BCE, bhikkhuni Sangamitta arrived with the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, which is considered to be a sapling from the historical Bodhi tree under which Gautama Buddha became enlightened. It is reckoned to be the oldest human-planted tree (with a continuous historical record) in the world.

Sri Lanka first experienced a foreign invasion during the reign of Suratissa, who was defeated by two horse traders named Sena and Guttika from South India. The next invasion came immediately in 205 BCE by a Chola king named Elara, who overthrew Asela and ruled the country for 44 years. Dutugemunu, the eldest son of the southern regional sub-king, Kavan Tissa, defeated Elara in the Battle of Vijithapura. He built Ruwanwelisaya, the second dogaba in ancient Sri Lanka, and the Lovamahapaya. During its two and a half millennia of existence, the Kingdom of Sri Lanka was invaded at least eight times by neighboring South Asian dynasties such as the Chola, Pandya, Chera, and Pallava. These invaders were all subsequently driven back. There also were incursions by the kingdoms of Kalinga (modern Odisha) and from the Malay Peninsula. Kala Wewa and the Avukana Buddha statue were built during the reign of Dhatusena.

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Sri Lanka was the first Asian country to have a female ruler, Queen Anula, who reigned during 47–42 BCE. Sri Lankan monarchs completed some remarkable constructions like Sigiriya, the so-called “Fortress in the Sky,” built during the reign of Kashyapa I. Sigiriya is a rock fortress surrounded by an extensive network of ramparts, moats, gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning in the world. The fifth-century palace is also renowned for its frescoes on rock surfaces. It has been declared by UNESCO as one of the seven World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka.

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Among other structures, large reservoirs, important for conserving water in a climate with rainy and dry seasons, and elaborate aqueducts, some with a slope as finely calibrated as one inch to the mile, are most notable. Biso Kotuwa, a peculiar construction inside a dam, is a technological marvel based on precise mathematics that allows water to flow outside the dam, keeping pressure on the dam to a minimum.

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Ancient Sri Lanka was the first country in the world to establish a dedicated hospital, in Mihintale in the 4th century. It was also the leading exporter of cinnamon in the ancient world. It maintained close ties with European civilizations including the Roman Empire. For example, King Bhatikabhaya (22 BC—AD 7) sent an envoy to Rome who brought back red coral which was used to make an elaborate netlike adornment for the Ruwanwelisaya. In addition, Sri Lankan male dancers witnessed the assassination of Caligula. When Queen Cleopatra sent her son Caesarion into hiding, he was headed to Sri Lanka. Bhikkhuni Devas?ra and ten other fully ordained bhikkhunis from Sri Lanka went to China and established the bhikkhuni s?sana there in AD 429.

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The early modern period of Sri Lanka begins with the arrival of Portuguese soldier and explorer Lourenço de Almeida, the son of Francisco de Almeida, in 1505. In 1517, the Portuguese built a fort at the port city of Colombo and gradually extended their control over the coastal areas. In 1592, after decades of intermittent warfare with the Portuguese, Vimaladharmasuriya I moved his kingdom to the inland city of Kandy, a location he thought more secure from attack. In 1619, succumbing to attacks by the Portuguese, the independent existence of Jaffna kingdom came to an end.

During the reign of the Rajasinghe II, Dutch explorers arrived on the island. In 1638, the king signed a treaty with the Dutch East India Company to get rid of the Portuguese who ruled most of the coastal areas. The following Dutch–Portuguese War resulted in a Dutch victory, with Colombo falling into Dutch hands by 1656. The Dutch remained in the areas they had captured, thereby violating the treaty they had signed in 1638. An ethnic group named Burgher people emerged in Sri Lankan society as a result of Dutch rule.

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The Kingdom of Kandy was the last independent monarchy of Sri Lanka. In 1595, Vimaladharmasurya brought the sacred Tooth Relic – the traditional symbol of royal and religious authority amongst the Sinhalese – to Kandy, and built the Temple of the Tooth. In spite of on-going intermittent warfare with Europeans, the kingdom survived. Later, a crisis of succession emerged in Kandy upon king Vira Narendrasinha’s death in 1739. He was married to a Telugu-speaking Nayakkar princess from South India and was childless by her. Eventually, with the support of bhikku Weliwita Sarankara, the crown passed to the brother of one of Narendrasinha’s princesses, overlooking the right of “Unambuwe Bandara”, Narendrasinha’s own son by a Sinhalese concubine. The new king was crowned Sri Vijaya Rajasinha later that year. Kings of the Nayakkar dynasty launched several attacks on Dutch controlled areas, which proved to be unsuccessful.

During the Napoleonic Wars, fearing that French control of the Netherlands might deliver Sri Lanka to the French, Great Britain occupied the coastal areas of the island (which they called Ceylon) with little difficulty in 1796. Two years later, in 1798, Rajadhi Rajasinha, third of the four Nayakkar kings of Sri Lanka, died of a fever. Following his death, a nephew of Rajadhi Rajasinha, eighteen-year-old Kannasamy, was crowned.The young king, now named Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, faced a British invasion in 1803 but successfully retaliated. By then, the entire coastal area was under the British East India Company as a result of the Treaty of Amiens. But on 14 February 1815, Kandy was occupied by the British in the second Kandyan War, finally ending Sri Lanka’s independence. Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the last native monarch of Sri Lanka, was exiled to India. The Kandyan Convention formally ceded the entire country to the British Empire. Attempts by Sri Lankan noblemen to undermine British power in 1818 during the Uva Rebellion were thwarted by Governor Robert Brownrigg.

The beginning of the modern period of Sri Lanka is marked by the Colebrooke-Cameron reforms of 1833. They introduced a utilitarian and liberal political culture to the country based on the rule of law and amalgamated the Kandyan and maritime provinces as a single unit of government. An Executive Council and a Legislative Council were established, later becoming the foundation of a representative legislature. By this time, experiments with coffee plantation were largely successful. Soon coffee became the primary commodity export of the country. Falling coffee prices as a result of the depression of 1847 stalled economic development and prompted the governor to introduce a series of taxes on firearms, dogs, shops, boats, etc., and to reintroduce a form of rajakariya, requiring six days free labor on roads or payment of a cash equivalent. These harsh measures antagonized the locals, and another rebellion broke out in 1848. A devastating leaf disease, Hemileia vastatrix, struck the coffee plantations in 1869, destroying the entire industry within fifteen years. The British quickly found a replacement: abandoning coffee, they began cultivating tea instead. Tea production in Sri Lanka thrived in the following decades. Large-scale rubber plantations began in the early 20th century.

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By the end of the 19th century, a new educated social class transcending race and caste arose through British attempts to staff the Ceylon Civil Service and the legal, educational, and medical professions. New leaders represented the various ethnic groups of the population in the Ceylon Legislative Council on a communal basis. Buddhist and Hindu revivalism reacted against Christian missionary activities. The first two decades of the 20th century are noted by the unique harmony among Sinhalese and Tamil political leadership, which has since been lost. In 1919, major Sinhalese and Tamil political organizations united to form the Ceylon National Congress, under the leadership of Ponnambalam Arunachalam, pressing colonial masters for more constitutional reforms. But without massive popular support, and with the governor’s encouragement for “communal representation” by creating a “Colombo seat” that dangled between Sinhalese and Tamils, the Congress lost momentum towards the mid-1920s. The Donoughmore reforms of 1931 repudiated the communal representation and introduced universal adult franchise (the franchise stood at 4% before the reforms). This step was strongly criticized by the Tamil political leadership, who realized that they would be reduced to a minority in the newly created State Council of Ceylon, which succeeded the legislative council. In 1937, Tamil leader G. G. Ponnambalam demanded a 50–50 representation (50% for the Sinhalese and 50% for other ethnic groups) in the State Council. However, this demand was not met by the Soulbury reforms of 1944-45. The Soulbury constitution ushered in Dominion status, with independence proclaimed on 4 February 1948.

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Sri Lanka has long been renowned for its spices. Since ancient times, traders from all over the world who came to Sri Lanka brought their native cuisines to the island, resulting in a rich diversity of cooking styles and techniques. The island nation’s cuisine mainly consists of boiled or steamed rice served with curry. This usually consists of a “main curry” of fish, chicken, pork, mutton or goat, as well as several other dishes made with vegetables, lentils and even fruit. Side-dishes include pickles, chutneys and “sambols”. The most famous of these is the coconut sambol, made of ground coconut mixed with chile peppers, dried Maldive, fish and lime juice. This is ground to a paste and eaten with rice.

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Coconut milk is used in most Sri Lankan dishes to give the cuisine its unique flavor. Sri Lankans use spices liberally in their dishes and typically do not follow an exact recipe: thus, every cook’s curry will taste slightly different. Furthermore, people from different regions of the island (for instance, hill-country dwellers versus coastal dwellers) traditionally cook in different ways while people of different ethnic and religious groups tend to prepare dishes according to their customs. Although Sri Lankan food appears similar to South Indian cuisine in its use of chile, cardamom, cumin, coriander and other spices, it has a distinctive taste, and uses ingredients like dried Maldive fish which are local to the area.

Sri Lankan food is generally equivalent in terms of spiciness to South Indian cuisine, yet many spicy Sri Lankan preparations are believed to be among the world’s hottest in terms of chile content. There is a liberal use of different varieties of scorching hot chiles such as amu miris, kochchi miris, and maalu miris.

There are mountains of Sri Lankan recipes that are wonderful.  I’ve picked a version of the side dish, dahl, lentils with spices to give you. A meal without dahl is unthinkable. In south Asian restaurants in the West the dahls tend to be rather dull – watery concoctions of bland, cooked lentils. Throughout south Asia they are rich and complex.  They are almost always cooked in two parts – the lentils themselves and then an added component, called “temper” in Sri Lanka, which is cooked separately and added to the lentils towards the end.  Red lentils are much easier to cook than brown ones and are very commonly used.  They reduce to a light brown mush in 25 minutes or less. Maldive dried fish may be hard to come by, but you can substitute most Asian dried fish. Use Sri Lankan cinnamon if you can find it.  It is more aromatic then the cinnamon you find in supermarkets.  It’s easy to find online.

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Sri Lankan Dahl

250 g (1¼ cups) red lentils, rinsed, drained
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp Maldive fish pieces
1 tsp Sri Lankan curry powder
6 fresh curry leaves
1 long green chile, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
500 ml (2 cups) coconut milk
60 ml (¼ cup) coconut cream

Temper

80 ml olive oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
5 fresh curry leaves
1 tsp dried chile flakes

Instructions

Place all the main ingredients except the coconut cream in a saucepan with 250 ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender and broken down; add more water if necessary. Season with salt.

Meanwhile, to cook the temper for the dhal, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the temper ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes or until onions are soft and browned. Remove from the heat and set aside until the lentils are ready.

Stir the temper into the lentils, then add the coconut cream, stirring to combine. Serve with rice,  sambols, and curry.  Sri Lankans typically mix the rice, dahl, and curry all together.

Oct 082013
 

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Today is Independence Day in Croatia. In June 1991 Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia, with the declaration officially taking effect on 8th October of the same year. It still took 4 years of war with Serbia for the sovereignty of the nation to be lasting, however. But eventually Croatia became self governing following 900 years of domination by other states. 8th October is also significant because it was the coronation date in 1076 of Dmitar Zvonimir, who was, for all intents and purposes, the last king of an independent Croatia before it fell under the control of foreign powers.

Ethnic Croats probably arrived in the area of present-day Croatia during the early part of the 7th century. By the 9th century Croatia consisted of two duchies, which combined to become a kingdom under Tomislav in 925. The kingdom of Croatia retained its sovereignty for nearly two centuries, reaching its peak during the reigns of kings Peter Krešimir IV and Dmitar Zvonimir.

Not much is known about Zvonomir although he holds a prominent symbolic place in contemporary Croatia as a great leader of a free Croatia (hence his coronation date and Independence Day coincide). He was crowned on 8 October 1076 at Solin in the Basilica of Saint Peter and Moses (known today as the Hollow Church, an archeological site) by a representative of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085). After the Papal legate crowned him, Zvonimir gave the city of Vrana and the Benedictine monastery of Saint Gregory to the Pope as a sign of loyalty. He is also known for building a three-naved basilica near Knin, his capital, and the city is today nicknamed “Zvonimir’s city”. He continued the expansive and pro-Roman policies of his predecessor, maintaining a close alliance with the papacy. He supported Gregory in his fight for supremacy over the Holy Roman Empire, and made many domestic reforms, including the abolition of slavery.

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There are several versions of the story of Zvonimir’s death. The most commonly accepted one, recorded by Thomas the Archdeacon, asserts that he died of natural causes.  Another account, from the Presbyter of Doclea, says that on 20 April 1089, desiring to heal the East-West Schism Pope Urban II asked Zvonimir, his strongest Balkan ally, to come to the military aid of Alexios I Komnenos against the Seljuks. Zvonimir convened the Sabor (council of nobles) at Kosovo Polje near Knin that year to mobilize the army on behalf of the pope and the emperor, but the nobility refused him and a rebellion erupted, leading to Zvonimir’s assassination at the hands of his own soldiers. His death marked the collapse of Croatian royal power. A legend arose, known as the Curse of Zvonomir, that as he lay dying he swore that because of this betrayal, Croatia would be ruled by foreigners for 900 years.

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When Zvonomir’s successor, Stjepan II, died in 1091 Ladislaus I of Hungary claimed the Croatian crown. Opposition to the claim led to a war and eventual union of Croatia and Hungary in 1102 the terms of which are not clear, but which seemed to have given Hungary some control over Croatia. For the next four centuries, the Kingdom of Croatia saw increasing threat of Ottoman conquest and struggle against the Republic of Venice for control of coastal areas. The Venetians gained control over most of Dalmatia by 1428, with the exception of the city-state of Dubrovnik which became independent. Ottoman conquests led to the 1493 Battle of Krbava field and 1526 Battle of Mohács, both ending in decisive Ottoman victories. In 1527, faced with complete Ottoman conquest, the Croatian Parliament elected Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg to the Croatian throne. From that point until 1918 Croatia was under Habsburg domination with constant threats from Ottoman Turks, as well as Venetians and the French during the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1918, after World War I, Croatia was included in the unrecognized State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs which seceded from Austria–Hungary and merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  A fascist Croatian puppet state existed during World War II. After the war, Croatia became a founding member and a federal constituent of Second Yugoslavia, a socialist state. In 1991, as part of the breakup of the Soviet Union, Croatia declared independence.

I spent several summers shortly after the Croatian War of Independence on islands off the Dalmatian coast conducting fieldwork on local culture, participating in conferences, and assisting local governments in their efforts to expand tourism.  As such I had considerable opportunity to sample the cooking of the region dominated by seafood from the Adriatic, combined with locally produced olive oil and wines.  Octopus features in many dishes, most especially the signature salata od hobotnice, octopus salad, as well squid in crni rižoto, black risotto, made by boiling the rice in squid ink.  You can make a very quick and cheap version of this by placing a tin of squid in its own ink in with some rice as it is boiling, draining the rice when it is cooked, and then mixing it with the heated squid and ink.

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Although seafood heavily predominates in Dalmatian cooking, there are traditional meat dishes due to the fact that island families often keep goats for milk and sheep for wool and meat.  Here is a recipe for tripice na Dalmatinski (Dalmatian style tripe) I got from a cook on the island of Lastovo. This is one of those recipes that is enjoyed in many countries, each with a slightly different regional twist.  However, the basics are the same: tripe and bacon simmered in a tomato and garlic sauce.  Most of the variations concern the kind of bacon to be used, and, believe me, this makes a considerable difference.   My favorite is pancetta, which is fairly easy to come by in the deli meat section of good supermarkets.  Pancetta is sometimes referred to as Italian bacon, but it is quite different from other kinds of bacon.  The meat is taken only from the belly, so that it is very fatty.  It is cured in salt and spices, but it is not smoked.  When it has finished curing it is rolled in sausage shapes and sliced very thinly.  It adds a much more delicate sweet meaty flavor to tomato sauces than ordinary bacon.  Basically, though, you can use whatever cured pork you favor.  Prosciutto is excellent, as is Canadian or Irish back bacon.  Even if you use plain old supermarket bacon you will still be rewarded with a hearty and robust meal.  Sheep or goat tripe is best for this dish but ox tripe will work.

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Tripice Na Dalmatinski

Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs fully cooked tripe, cut in bite-sized chunks
6 slices pancetta (or an equivalent amount of cured pork or bacon)
1 onion
1 cup light stock (veal or chicken)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper

Instructions:

Cut the pancetta slices into 4 or 6 pieces and gently fry them in a little extra virgin olive oil so that the fat is rendered, and the meaty portions are well cooked but not crisp.  Remove the pancetta from the pan and reserve.

Thinly slice the onion and sauté in the oil and bacon fat until soft.  Finely mince the garlic and add to the onions for an extra minute.  Do not let the garlic take on any color.

Heat the stock and dissolve the tomato paste in it, then add this mixture to the garlic and onions.  Bring to a gentle simmer and add the tripe, pancetta, and the chopped parsley, plus a few grinds of black pepper.  Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Aug 172013
 

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Today is Independence Day in The Gabon, officially République Gabonaise, one of the most prosperous countries of both Central and West Africa due to its small population, abundant natural resources, and foreign private investment. It is also one of the most ethnically diverse and politically troubled, although things appear to be looking up.

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Almost all Gabonese are of Bantu origin. Gabon has at least forty ethnic groups with separate languages and cultures. The Fang are generally thought to be the largest, although recent census data seem to favor the Bandjabi (or Nzebi). Others include the Myene, Bakota, Eshira, Bapounou, and Okande. There is also a small population of foragers (hunter/gatherers) who are sometimes called “pygmies” although this is generally considered a pejorative term because it refers to physical stature as opposed to ethnicity. They are better referred to as the Baka. Like similar groups in neighboring regions, such as the Mbuti of Zaire, whose culture was well documented by anthropologist Colin Turnbull, the Baka live in a complex relationship with the settled agriculturalists – partly dependent, partly independent.

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The earliest inhabitants of the area were foragers who may have been ancestral to modern-day Baka. They were largely displaced and absorbed by Bantu groups that migrated into the region. In the 15th century, the first Europeans arrived. The nation’s present name originates from “Gabão,” Portuguese for “cloak”, which is roughly the shape of the estuary of the Komo River by the current capital, Libreville. By the 18th century, a Myeni speaking kingdom known as Orungu formed in Gabon which traded heavily with Europeans. French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza led his first mission to the Gabon-Congo area in 1875. He founded the town of Franceville, and was later colonial governor. Several Bantu groups lived in the area that is now Gabon when France officially occupied it in 1885.

In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959. These territories became independent on August 17, 1960. The first president of Gabon, elected in 1961, was Léon M’ba, with Omar Bongo Ondimba as his vice president. French interests were decisive in selecting the future leadership in Gabon after independence; French logging interests poured funds into the successful election campaign of M’ba, an évolué (Europeanized African) from the coastal region.

After M’ba’s accession to power, the press was suppressed, political demonstrations banned, freedom of expression curtailed, other political parties gradually excluded from power and the Constitution changed along French lines to vest power in the Presidency, a post that M’ba assumed himself. However, when M’ba dissolved the National Assembly in January 1964 to institute one-party rule, an army coup sought to oust him from power and restore parliamentary democracy. The extent to which M’ba’s dictatorial regime was synonymous with “French Interests” then became blatantly apparent when French paratroopers flew in within 24 hours to restore M’ba to power.

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After a few days of fighting, the coup was over and the opposition imprisoned, despite widespread protests and riots. The French government was unperturbed by international condemnation of the intervention, and paratroops still remain in the Camp de Gaulle on the outskirts of Gabon’s capital. When M’Ba died in 1967, his vice-president, Bongo, replaced him as president. Bongo remained president until his death in 2009. His son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, was elected to replace him. The one party de facto dictatorship inaugurated by M’Ba has steadily eroded starting in the late 1990’s, with opposition parties emerging, and occasionally having members elected to key positions.

In October 2009, newly elected President Ali Bongo Ondimba began efforts to streamline the government. In an effort to reduce corruption and government bloat, he eliminated 17 minister-level positions, abolished the vice presidency and reorganized the portfolios of numerous ministries, bureaus and directorates. In November 2009, President Bongo Ondimba announced a new vision for the modernization of Gabon, called “Gabon Emergent”. This program contains three pillars: Green Gabon, Service Gabon, and Industrial Gabon. The goals of Gabon Emergent are to diversify the economy so that Gabon becomes less reliant on petroleum, to eliminate corruption, and to modernize the workforce.

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Gabon is located on the Atlantic coast of central Africa. Located on the equator, between latitudes 3°N and 4°S, and longitudes 8° and 15°E. Gabon generally has an equatorial climate with an extensive system of rainforests covering 85% of the country. There are three distinct regions: the coastal plains (ranging between 20 to 300 km from the ocean’s shore), the mountains (the Cristal Mountains to the northeast of Libreville, the Chaillu Massif in the centre, culminating at 1575 m with Mont Iboundji), and the savanna in the east. The coastal plains form a large section of the World Wildlife Fund’s Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests ecoregion and contain patches of Central African mangroves especially on the Muni River estuary on the border with Equatorial Guinea.

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Gabon’s largest river is the Ogooué which is 1200 km long. Gabon has three karst areas where there are hundreds of caves located in the dolomite and limestone rocks. Some of the caves include Grotte du Lastoursville, Grotte du Lebamba, Grotte du Bongolo, and Grotte du Kessipougou. Many caves have not been explored yet. A National Geographic Expedition visited the caves in the summer of 2008 to document them.

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Gabon is also noted for efforts to preserve the natural environment. In 2002, President Omar Bongo Ondimba put Gabon firmly on the map as an important future ecotourism destination by designating roughly 10% of the nation’s territory to be part of its national park system (with 13 parks in total), one of the largest proportions of nature parkland in the world. But Gabon is not interested in mass tourism, which would destroy the environment and local cultures. It wishes, on the contrary, to develop high quality tourism, which protects nature and people, preserves biodiversity and the culture of local population groups.

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Gabon sits at the crossroads between the north, south, and west of the African continent. This, along with the country’s long history of French colonization, makes its cuisine one of the most varied in Africa.  I could give a traditional main dish recipe, but many of the ingredients, such as palm oil, bitter greens, and nyembwe (palm nut sauce), are difficult to get outside of west Africa, and in some cases the cooking processes require years of experience (which I don’t have). I used to have a good Nigerian supplier in Brooklyn for a while, but such places come and go, and don’t exactly advertize widely.  I found the one I used purely by accident whilst wandering around semi-lost. A year later it was closed. Even with the proper ingredients I never managed to replicate traditional dishes adequately.

Instead I give you a Gabonese dessert which requires no special ingredients or training: baked bananas, served two ways. The simple way, with sour cream and brown sugar, is the customary Gabonese version. The over the top version with a pineapple cream topping is my invention.  The topping comes from a different Gabonese dessert.  Whichever topping you are using, make sure the ingredients are well refrigerated.  This dish gains its glory from the mix of textures and temperatures, especially the contrast of the hot bananas and the cold topping.

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Gabonese Baked Bananas

Ingredients:

8 bananas
1 egg
2 tbsps orange juice
½ dry breadcrumbs
4 tbsps butter

First topping:

8 tbsps sour cream
8 tbsps brown sugar

Second topping:

½ cup vanilla yogurt
½ cup sour cream
½ cup evaporated milk
½ cup crushed pineapple
1 tsp nutmeg plus extra for garnish
½ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

If using the second topping, mix all the ingredients together well and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Heat oven to 350°F/175°C

Beat together the egg and orange juice and pour into a shallow bowl. Place breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl.

Cut the bananas in half. Roll each piece in the egg mixture and then in the breadcrumbs to coat them evenly.  It’s a good idea to use the chef’s trick of having one wet hand and one dry hand. That is, roll the bananas in the egg with your right hand, and in the breadcrumbs with your left. Place the bananas on a wire rack when coated.

Heat the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Gently sauté the bananas in batches until the coating is slightly browned.  Transfer them to a greased baking tray when done.

When all the bananas are finished, place the baking tray in the oven for 10 minutes.

To serve place two banana halves on each plate.  Top either with a dollop of sour cream sprinkled with brown sugar, or with the pineapple cream sprinkled with a little nutmeg.

Serves 8 (or 4 greedy people).

Jun 122013
 
Andrés Bonifacio

Andrés Bonifacio

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Emilio Aguinaldo

Today marks the day in 1898 when the Philippines declared independence from Spain.  Sadly for the nation this was not the end of the matter by a long way, but it was a start. Revolution for independence broke out in 1896 after years of mounting sentiments in favor of it and the formation of secret groups of revolutionaries, most notably the Katipunan, who advocated armed rebellion against Spain. The Katipunan was founded by a group led by Andrés Bonifacio who ultimately became the supreme head. He is, therefore, often called “the father of the Philippine Revolution.” The Katipunan spread throughout the provinces of the Philippines forming their own secret government. By 1896 the Spanish authorities became aware of the existence of the Katipunan and took steps to repress it, including arrests and executions.  By August 1896 hostilities had broken out.

Bonifacio called for a simultaneous coordinated attack on the capital Manila. This attack failed, but the surrounding provinces also rose up in revolt. In particular, rebels in Cavite led by Emilio Aguinaldo won early victories. A power struggle among the revolutionaries led to Bonifacio’s capture and execution by the Spanish in 1897, with command shifting to Aguinaldo, who led his own revolutionary government. That year, a truce with the Spanish was reached called the Pact of Biak-na-Bato and Aguinaldo was exiled to Hong Kong. Hostilities, though reduced, never actually ceased.

On April 21, 1898, the United States began a naval blockade of Cuba, the first military action of the Spanish–American War. On May 1, the U.S. Navy’s Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey decisively defeated the Spanish navy in the Battle of Manila Bay, effectively seizing control of Manila. On May 19, Aguinaldo, unofficially allied with the United States, returned to the Philippines and resumed hostilities against the Spaniards. By June, the rebels had gained control over nearly all of the Philippines with the exception of Manila. On June 12, Aguinaldo issued the Philippine Declaration of Independence and the First Philippine Republic was established. Neither Spain nor the United States recognized Philippine independence.

The Spanish government later ceded the Philippine archipelago to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris. The Philippine Revolutionary Government did not recognize the treaty. When the Americans sought to execute the terms of the treaty, a three-year conflict, now called the Philippine-American War, ensued. The United States did not grant independence to the Philippines until 4 July 1946 and for a time 4 July was Independence Day. On 12 May 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal issued Presidential Proclamation No. 28, which declared Tuesday, 12 June a special public holiday throughout the Philippines, “… in commemoration of our people’s declaration of their inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence.” On 4 August 1964, Republic Act No. 4166 renamed the 4 July holiday as “Philippine Republic Day”, proclaimed 12 June as “Philippine Independence Day”, and enjoined all citizens of the Philippines to observe the latter with befitting rites.

Independence Day is marked by public and private events.  In the morning, government leaders attend ceremonies for the simultaneous raising of the national flag (first raised on this day in 1898) at 7 am at various historic sites throughout the country.  In the afternoon there is a massive parade of civic and military groups in Manila.   There are also, of course, family gatherings and celebrations throughout the nation.

I have no doubt that at many family feasts in the Philippines today there will be adobo served.  Adobo is synonymous with the cooking of the Philippines.  But there are probably as many recipes and styles as there are cooks.  Adobo is really an umbrella term meaning that the ingredients are marinated and cooked in a sauce with vinegar as its base.  Here is a simple recipe for a chicken adobo. The key is to make sure the sauce reduces so as to provide a thick coating for the chicken.  It is usually served with plain white rice.

Adobong Manok (Chicken Adobo)

Ingredients:

3 lbs (1.5 kilos) chicken pieces (thighs and legs are best)
½ cup (1.2 dl) soy sauce
2/3 cup (1.6 dl) vinegar
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Combine all the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, or overnight.

Place the chicken and marinade in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Simmer for about 50 minutes until the chicken is tender and sauce is reduced by half. It works well to cook the chicken for about 25 minutes with the lid on, and then take the lid off for the remaining cooking time.

Serves 6.

 

May 152013
 

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Today is Independence Day in Paraguay. Paraguay is a landlocked country in the center of South America bordered by Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia.  Before the arrival of the Spanish it was inhabited by the Guaraní, and Guaraní is still spoken widely in Paraguay to this day.  Along with Spanish it is an official language of Paraguay. When the Spanish arrived, the territory was included in the Viceroyalty of Peru which governed almost all of the Spanish Empire’s holdings in South America from the capital, Lima.  But when the viceroyalty was split in two in 1776 it became part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata governed from Buenos Aires. Because of Paraguay’s remoteness and lack of economic potential at the time it was generally ignored by the Spanish crown, and, therefore, had little money for the military. In consequence the nation was able to declare independence from Spain on May 15 1811 without bloodshed (very different from other countries in the viceroyalty). When it was clear to the Spanish governor, Bernardo de Velasco, that revolution was imminent he disbanded his small garrison of soldiers rather than fight because he knew he would lose. Independence Day is marked in the cities with parades, music, dancing, and fireworks, and in the countryside with family barbecues.

The original Spanish settlers were mostly male soldiers who married Guaraní women, creating a mestizo people and culture.  Currently 93% of Paraguayans are mestizo, making Paraguay one of the most ethnically homogenous in Latin America.  The culture of Paraguay is, therefore, a fusion of indigenous and Spanish elements. 80% of the population speaks both Guaraní and Spanish.

The flag of Paraguay is unique for a national flag in that it has different symbols on front and back. The two sides are essentially the same, based on the French flag, but the central motif is different on front and back.

The national dish of Paraguay is sopa paraguaya (Paraguayan soup), which, despite the name, is not a soup but a cornbread flavored with cheese and onions.  It is used as an accompaniment to soups, stews, and grilled meats, or it can be eaten alone.  It is essential food on Independence Day.

Sopa Paraguaya

Ingredients

8 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup farmer’s cheese
1 cup grated muenster or other mild cheese
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 16 ounce can cream-style corn (or 2 cups fresh corn kernels)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
6 eggs, separated

Instructions

Heat half the butter in a skillet and cook the onions over moderate heat until tender but not brown and set aside.

Combine the remaining butter with the farmer’s cheese in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.

Add the muenster, onions, cornmeal, corn, salt, milk, egg yolks, and mix thoroughly.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold them into the batter.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10 inch by 13 inch (25 cm x 30 cm) baking pan and bake in a preheated 400F (200C) oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serves 6-8.