Below is the latest post documenting Marta and Shaun’s adventure in Timor-Leste. You can view the original post and more here.
We’ve been trying to get into the habit of cooking one American style meal for our family every week. Last week, we made an Italian inspired dish called Carbonara with pasta and eggs from town. This week, we tried our hand at French Toast! It took a hike through the mountains, skilled widdling on Shaun’s part, five days of sun bathing, and a lucky find in the town corner store.
For French Toast we needed (hopefully) sliced bread, sugar, eggs, and cinnamon. While we had seen the former three float around town, the latter was nowhere to be found. When you live in a place with no giant supermarkets with the convenience of everything you need in one place, you get creative. Lucky for us, our dad is a farmer, and after some attempts at asking where we might find some cinnamon, he remembered that there was indeed a cinnamon tree on the farmland he works.
Come the weekend, we were headed to the farm to gather cassava, cassava leaves (DELICIOUS), tropical veggies and hunt for the cinnamon tree. Our host dad is a funny guy, and knows that Marta plus climbing mountains in the glaring heat of midday don’t go well together. So, he told us the farm was only an hour walk away–one hour here can mean three.
After slipping and sliding and sweating our way to the mountain, we took a break at a house our host father had constructed a year prior. It had the look and feel of a cozy treehouse, nestled into the mountainside with a view of three bordering districts: Aileu, Liquiça, and our very own, Ermera.
For the next couple of hours we explored our father’s farmland. Shaun even learned how to replant cassava! We finally found the cinnamon tree, and our father cut off some bark to show us how the cinnamon grows. We took a single branch with us and back to the village we went. With some handy widdling done by Shaun and our host-father, we ended up with a small box-full of cinnamon shavings.
And then… we waited. Five days of sitting out in the sun in a little bamboo box on the roof, drying out and hardening. We were so excited–we had never made cinnamon from scratch before! It smelled sweeter and fresher than any cinnamon we had had in the states. We kept unusable shavings for potpourri, and when the sun had finally done its work, we pummeled it down to a fine powder.
With some luck, there was sliced bread at one of the small shops in the center of town (Kios, as they are known here). We went crazy with American joy and our host family absolutely loved it 😊
We have begun to truly understand how much convenience exists back in the states when it comes to infrastructure, access to nutrient-rich food, and simply prepping the meals we eat. Out in the districts where the living is quite rural. If you want green vegetables, you have to grow it yourself, brave the harsh dry season and hope what you plant survives. Out here, some days there are no vegetables in the market or in your garden, so you eat noodles and rice. This is usually due to the roads being too dangerous to venture, and so the markets in the capital can’t get their produce out to the people who need it most.