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Monday, June 17, 2013

Amazon Trip Part Two

Amazon trip - Part Two (for part one, click here)

Native home visit

I loved this visit!  The natives gave us a demonstration on processing manioc/yuca/cassava.  Manioc is abundant in the Amazon and they use it for everything.  There are two types  – bitter and sweet.  The sweet manioc they just cook and eat.  The bitter manioc has poison in the juice and they have to process it to make it edible. First they have to extract the juice then they have to drain it (using something like a cheesecloth).  Next they let the flesh dry out then sift it, resulting in a coarse powder they can use for cooking. If they boil the liquid, it can also be used as a condiment or in cooking too.

one of the tools they use to use to extract the liquid

giving the 'new' extraction equipment a whirl 

sifting the manioc

sifting the dried manioc

Our guide told us that people would fry the powder and carry it around on long journeys so they could just mix the powder with water for a meal - it expands in the stomach to make you feel
full (without actually providing any nutrients).  They made some tapioca pancakes for us to sample (yummy) and also let us sample some Brazilian nuts.

preparing tapioca pancakes for us

The powder is also fried and mixed with different things (for example smoked meats, nuts, and fruits) to make farofa.  Everyone has their own special recipe for farofa and they eat it with just about everything.  The first time I tried it, I was not impressed, but I now eat it regularly over salad and with grilled meats.  It adds a little flavor and a really nice texture to dishes.  The powder is also used to make the ever popular pão de queijo (cheese bread) which I will eventually try to make (and blog about).

the finished product - yummy tapioca pancakes

Native village tour
The village was really cool.  There are about a hundred residents there on a large plot of land. Through  hunting and fishing they are able to remain self sufficient with the exception of a few items traded for in the city of Manaus.

We were also given a demonstration on how rubber was historically harvested from the trees.  First, they make a diagonal slash in the tree and allow the milk/sap to drip into a container. After it solidifies (coagulates), they heat it and pour it onto a pipe over a small fire oven.  It hardens into a ball (seen below). They would then sell the rubber in large balls.  
Rubber became the economic star of the Amazon in the early nineteen hundreds.  The nearby city of Manaus became the center of the Brazilian economy.  Eventually, someone smuggled rubber tree seeds out of the Amazon and replanted in areas with similar soil/climates that were more convenient to major ports (like Malaysia and Singapore).  The proximity of the new rubber trees to the ports resulted in decreased prices which resulted in a significant decrease in demand for the Amazon rubber.

Holding a rubber ball

This trip was so wonderful.  It was a unique experience, fun, and educational.  I really loved our time there and will always treasure the memories we have of the river, the jungle, the wildlife, and the people.

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