Food for thought
Food is far more than fuel for our bodies—it reveals something significant about our cultural heritage and brings us together around the table. CCS volunteers consistently rave about the food at the Home-Base. CCS cooks are also trained in safe food preparation and cooking for a variety of dietary preferences, restrictions, and allergies. Check out these volunteer reviews and cultural factoids for our nine country destinations!
Briana Grim, CCS Ghana
“My favorite Ghanaian meal this week, by far, was the goat meat with okra stew, akple, red sauce, fried rice, and pineapple. Ghanaian dishes tend to be carb heavy, but I have found that CCS does a great job at keeping them balanced. I had heard that goat was common in Ghana, so I was excited to try it. Wow—It was delicious! It was cooked with some onions and peppers, and I preferred to mix a little rice in and top it off with red sauce. Red sauce is provided with every meal and can be eaten with almost anything. Akple is a cooked corn and cassava dough. It doesn't have much flavor but when dipped in the okra stew it was very tasty! Fruit is also provided every meal and you can certainly count on it being fresh and delicious. One thing that has surprised me about the food in Ghana is how delicious the fruit is: the taste is far superior to the fruit in America!”
Excerpt from Alex Mayyasi's article on Priceonomics, "The Invention of Pad Thai"
“Pad Thai is a staple of Bangkok street food and sold in small, Thai villages. Seventy-five years ago, when Phibun [Plaek Phibunsongkhram, the prime minister] decided to redesign Thailand’s culture by decree, pad Thai barely existed—if it existed at all. Rice with chili paste, leaves, and salt was the staple, subsistence food, and Thais bought lunch and snacks from Chinese food vendors. The exact origins of pad Thai remain contested. According to some accounts, Phibun announced a competition to create a new, national dish. Phibun’s son, however, told Gastronomica that his family cooked the dish before Phibun made it government policy, although he does not remember who invented it.
Either way, the dish’s roots are Chinese.[...] Noodles and stir-frying are very Chinese, and immigration likely brought the practice to Siam. Flavors like tamarind, palm sugar, and chilies were the Thai twists. By releasing a pad Thai recipe and promoting it, Phibun turned one potential take on stir-fried noodles into a national dish. He believed that pad Thai would improve the diet of people who ate mostly rice, and that cooking pad Thai in clean pans would improve national hygiene. Most of all, Phibun wanted to unify the country by promoting a uniquely Thai dish."
Bre Legan, CCS India—Dharamsala
“Wednesday night meals in Dharamsala consist of tandoori chicken, veggie tikka, naan, chutney, salad, curd, rice, and fruit cream. It is literally one of the most amazing things one can ever taste in their life. I think what really brings it all around is that we got to watch the CCS staff stretch the naan dough and cook it on the sides of the tandoori oven, as well as cooking the skewered chicken and veggies. All the volunteers were outside surrounding the oven, some playing Frisbee and others just chilling—it was like a giant BBQ, which was really cool and totally unexpected!”
Demi Lee, CCS Morocco
“Morocco’s cuisine is a combination of old Amazigh staples, Arabic foods, and French and Spanish influences. Dates and figs are abundant which is fantastic, and I've developed a love for pickled lemons which I had never tried before. Meloui, a sort of semolina pancake, is popular here. Couscous is common as well, and since it's easy to make a lot of it, many people cook it on Fridays and give some away to help feed the hungry. I'm a vegetarian and the staff at Home-Base have been more than accommodating. There are tons of vegetables and it's really easy to eat healthy. It was my birthday this week and the Home-Base staff made me a cake in the shape of a heart. In summary, food here is great and you share it with great people.”
Talia Mocciaro, CCS Peru
“To summarize my eating experience in Lima, I would say that the rumors are true...Peruvian food can’t be beat. We get a nice mix of vegetables and meat every day, and special dishes are made for our vegetarian volunteers, which is so nice. There’s also a lot of Asian influence in the way food is seasoned...who would’ve thought that? During my first week, my favorite lunch was when we were served pork, mashed peas, and avocado and tomato salad. Everything the CCS Staff makes is so flavorful! I also had a very small amount of what they call ‘ahi sauce.’ It’s a very spicy sauce made from peppers and, as much as I love mixing it with my food, my tastebuds are still trying to get used to it!”
“Most food that makes up Tanzanian cuisine is typical throughout all of East Africa. Meat is not widely consumed in comparison with other areas of the continent. Cattle are normally slaughtered only for very special occasions, such as a wedding or the birth of a baby...The Tanzanian diet is largely based on starches such as millet, sorghum, beans, pilaf, and cornmeal. A meal that could be considered the country's national dish is ugali, a stiff dough made of cassava flour, cornmeal (maize), millet, or sorghum, and usually served with a sauce containing either meat, fish, beans, or cooked vegetables. It is typically eaten out of a large bowl that is shared by everyone at the table."
James Zogran-Werness, CCS Costa Rica
“This meal was my favorite this week. (Some of the other meals certainly deserved an honorable mention, but I didn’t eat four servings of any of the others.) It was a beef, cheese, rice, and bean burrito with salsa, avocado, and sour cream you could add. On the side, they had more salsa and avocado available, as well as tortilla chips and fresh cut watermelon. The fruit here is always superb. I ended up having four burritos and two full glasses of horchata, along with some of the sides.”
Excerpt from John Colapinto's article in The New Yorker, "Strange Fruit—The rise and fall of açaí."
"Açaí was virtually unknown outside Brazil until ten years ago, when Ryan and Jeremy Black, two brothers from Southern California, and their friend Edmund Nichols began exporting it to the United States [...] Embraced as a “superfruit”—a potent combination of cholesterol-reducing fats and anti-aging antioxidants—açaí became one of the fastest-growing foods in history, billed as a miracle cure [...] Supermarkets have become filled with açaí-laced products: açaí jelly beans; açaí ice cream; açaí vodka; açaí skin creams, hair conditioners, and lip balms. Jane Fajans, an anthropologist who studies the culture of food, suggests that the fruit became a kind of balm for millennial anxieties. 'There are all these claims,' she says, 'that it takes away the toxicity of living in the First World and transports you back to the healthy, natural' world of the rain forest."
Kalley Knight, CCS Guatemala
"My favorite dish this week was one called harapos, or rags as we’d say in English. Rags is shredded beef with potatoes, drenched in a flavorful sauce. It received its name due to its resemblance to torn pieces of rag. It is most commonly served with homemade tortillas (as is everything here in Guatemala), and rice. The in-country staff here paired it with avocado which added the perfect finishing touch.
One thing I’ve noticed about the food here is that everything has an immense amount of flavor. While I’ve been nervous to try some of the local cuisine, I would be lying if I said I haven't enjoyed every single bite."