Riding the bus from Cancun to Belize City we noticed something so quintessentially Belizian we knew for certain we were in the right country. On a small concrete home, painted bright yellow and orange, there were two beat-up wooden doors. Above one, in large brown letters, were the hand-painted words, “Lose Fat Gym.” Over the other was written “Burritos.”
In many respects Belize ranks with the poorest nations in the world. The per capita GDP, according to the most recent IMF report, is $4,275. Compare that with $50,200 in the United States or $34,300 for the average of the EU. The Belizian economy ranks 163rd of 183 nations. Average wage is $10 per day. Average annual income is about a third less than GDP per capita because that missing third goes to foreign banks and businesses, which is what makes elections so interesting.
Belize has a nominally 2-party system — the governing United Democratic Party (UDP) and the opposition People’s United Party (PUP). In actuality, there is hardly any discernible difference between the two. Both promise more jobs and economic growth, a fair shake and an end to corruption. Once in office, all of the opposites to those promises prevail. And, since whichever party is in power can siphon off the most graft and kickbacks, a lot of money gets spent on elections, which are premised on the absurd and unrealizable myths of growth and jobs.
|Gomier and PDC arrivals watch political parade from the restaurant in Punta Gorda|
|Permaculture Course at Maya Mountain Research Farm|
|The new southern road cut a swath between the farm of Burton Cadiz (left) and his neighbor|
By the end of the 19th century, the ethnic pattern that has remained largely intact to the present was in place: Protestants largely of African descent, who spoke either English or Creole and have clustered in Belize City; Roman Catholic Maya and Mestizos who speak Spanish and Mayan and live chiefly in the highlands; and Roman Catholic Garifuna who speak Creole English, Spanish, or a native dialect and live on the coasts or inland at Stann Creek. Sprinkle into this some Protestant Mennonite clans and a wave of recent Asian immigrants and you get the modern mix of Belize. In Punta Gorda you can get by on any of four languages and most people speak them all.
|PDC students Reginia (Humana People to People) and Raneesha (Plenty) learn to swale|
Fish: about 2 pounds of mackerel, barracuda, culibri, any firm fleshed fish, steaked or cut into other bowl sized pieces.
Coco yam about 1 lb (or dasheen or taro root, found in most well stocked produce sections, in the "exotics" section. Ask your grocer, or substitute potatoes if you absolutely have to)
Cassava root about 1 lb (again, most well stocked produce sections in a grocery store will have this around.)
Onion (about two medium, finely diced)
Bell pepper (about two medium, finely diced)
1 can (2 cups if fresh) Coconut milk
Water (normally not listed as an ingredient, but you need good water here)
Garlic (plenty, finely minced)
Black pepper (fresh ground, to taste)
1. Peel cassava and coco yams (collectively known as ground-food in Belize because they come from the ground), cut into big chunks. The brown skin of the cassava will come off along with a white thin layer of underlying flesh. Finally chop onion, bell pepper. Crush black pepper, salt. Cook all vegetables and ground food in a pot with coconut milk, plenty of minced garlic, pepper, a little cumin, salt and enough water to completely cover the food. Cook until tender. Add minced cilantro to taste. People often include breadfruit, ripe plantain or green plantain fu-fu (cooked mashed green plantain dumplings) in this stage of the serre.
2. Once fish is cut into steaks or pieces, fry until browned in a little coconut oil.
3. Place fish in pot, on top of the stew of tender ground-food and vegetables, simmer until fish is done. This won't take long, test with a fork if need be.
4. Serve with pepper/onion sauce.
Pepper or Onion sauce:
This is an essential accompaniment to the Serre. The acidity of the lime and vinegar and the heat of the habanero cut the richness of the coconut milk and create a perfect balance of flavor. Whether you call it pepper or onion sauce depends on the ratio of onion to habanero. Go with what works best for your taste buds and heat preference.
Mince an onion and add to taste a quantity of finely minced habanero pepper. Remove the seeds and white internal membrane if you want to tone down the heat even more. Add minced cilantro, lime juice, vinegar and salt to taste. Some people like more vinegar, some like more lime juice. Experiment and see which you prefer. Let the whole concoction sit in a glass container. You can leave it covered on the counter for several weeks and it will stay perfectly fresh as the onion and pepper pickle themselves in the lime juice and vinegar. Serve with Serre and other heavy stews, with refried beans at breakfast, on top of guacamole or anytime you need some hot pepper flavor.