A friend of a friend, who owns an estancia in the Chaco, offered to take me out to Integrationville (where the cuasi was waiting in disrepair) and fix up the cuasi. I spent the first day on the estancia with his family, who all live in the city but went out to the family farm for the holiday. The kids spent most of the day ripping around the ranch on cuasis and visiting with farm animals. And we made chipa!
In Paraguay, it’s traditional to basically just eat chipa during the semana santa (holy week) (since you’re not supposed to be eating meat). Chipa is pretty popular throughout the year though. A lot of roadside vendors are selling chipa, and their calls of “chipa caliente!” can be heard all the time when you’re on the road. (I have to say, it’s delicious when it’s hot (caliente), but when it’s more than a day old I find chipa really dry and not delicious.)
The main ingredients that give chipa its distinctive flavour are the use of mandioca flour and Paraguayan cheese. Most people also add anise. (I suspect most Paraguayan bread has anise in it.)
Here are a few recipes I found in Spanish (use Google translate to see them in English): #1, #2, and #3 shows a great photo sequence of how to make chipa, although it doesn’t use Paraguayan cheese. I usually see chipa in a doughnut shape, but our chipa looked like this:
After getting a look at the cuasi the following day, the diagnosis was bad. It needed to be taken back to Asunción. Which means I couldn’t use it to travel to Isolationville, which is where I needed to be. So, my very kind new friends invited me to spend the rest of the Easter long weekend at their estancia, and they gave me a ride back to Asunción afterwards so I could arrange for cuasi repairs. (Wow, two field vehicles kaput. I am not lucky.)
The weekend was full of lots of fun stuff, including:
And an assortment of other ranching activities, like ripping around on cuasis, Texas hold’em poker, horseback riding, trying to hug sheep, and vaccinating cows.
Since then and up until now, I’ve been in Asunción waiting for the cuasi to be repaired and for the rain to stop so I can make another attempt to reach Isolationville. Tomorrow’s the day! I’ll be gone for about a week and the blog will be automatically updating.