Let’s talk about development work. Sustainable cornbread development work to be more exact.
I remember from the haze that was training one person telling us: “Guys, the Holy Grail of development is teaching someone a skill and having that person teach another person” (I’m paraphrasing here, it was probably said a lot more eloquently). Well, I’ve done it! I’ve gotten to Holy Grail volunteer status by passing along the skill of making cornbread!
Here, people make a something that is like cornbread but not quite, called sopa. It’s served alongside every BBQ meal, and almost every family event. Ingredients are corn flour, oil (or lard), milk, eggs, salt, onions. So cornbread isn’t quite a huge stretch, but people love it!
I made a loaf with my friend Hugo last Saturday. His sister owns an electric oven, so we went to her house to bake it. As soon as she tasted it she made me sit and write down the recipe, went out to buy the ingredients and made a second loaf within the hour. She tells me her husband who hates everything wants to eat this for breakfast every day. With dulce de leche spread on it and dipped in cocido (ok, ok, a little adaptation).
The next Monday, Hugo taught his entire 4th grade class to make it, THEY all loved it and so do all the teachers who work at his school.
What does this have to do with the work I’m here doing with Peace Corps? Absolutely nothing, except maybe sharing American culture. But maybe there’s something to be learned from it? Development work should not be something completely foreign to the people you are working with. Something should stay recognizable from what they know so it’s not something alien and scary, but with a new twist. I think cornbread was so successful because of the sopa similarities (GET IT? IT’S A METAPHOR). I think I’ll take this as a reminder of the way I approach work at school.
Well, I know it’s not exactly fall cornbread hunger enducing weather in the northern hemisphere, but here is my mom’s recipe for cornbread. Picky Paraguayan Husband approved!
MAMA JANE’S CORN MUFFINS
(makes 15 muffins, or one loaf pan)
- 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup corn meal
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- ¼ cup cooking oil
- 1 cup milk
Measure flour, meal, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir together. Make a well in the center.
Beat egg until frothy. Mix in oil and milk. Pour into your dry ingredient well. Stir just enough to moisten (batter will be a little lumpy and that’s OK!). Fill greased muffin cups or loaf pan ¾ full.
Bake at 400F (about 200C) for 20-25 mins. Leave in pan 5 minutes and remove. Serve warm (with butter). Or cold with dulce and cocido if you are a picky husband.