Thursday, June 5, 2008

Life "On the Pampas" Captures el Corazón

Not too long ago, a friend gave me a copy of "On the Pampas" by María Cristina Brusca. Instantly, it became my daughter's favorite and I must have read it five dozen times by now - at least once a day, sometimes twice. Normally, I would get tired of a new "favorite" after a few nights in a row and try to suggest a new one that we haven't read, but this sweet classic has definitely caught my heart.

I don't know of any little girls (or boys, for that matter) that don't like a good story about horses and life on the ranch. I certainly devoured books on this topic when I was a child. And since their infancy, I have seen this burgeoning love and affection for all things equine consume my children.

But for me, "Pampas" has sky-rocketed to the top of our favorite book list because it not only tells a great story about a girl's summer vacation on the family ranch - it tells about una niña's summer adventure on an Argentine estancia. So much of this story brings back childhood memories of times when I visited my father's familia in Spain and enjoyed the innocence, joy and passion of la vida española. I wish that every child could be able to experience the adventure of living in the country and discover the passion for living that the Hispanic culture embodies.

Unfortunately, Amazon only seems to have 9 used copies left, but if I were you, I would boogie on over there and get one. You can find them here.

You will not regret the purchase after you read this wonderful book with your child. Both of mine are totally enthralled from beginning to end. And the illustrations are excellent, as well. I had a hard time picking one out from the book, so I wound up using my two favorites (not in sequential order.)

It is also an excellent tool for teaching your children about the differences and similarities of another culture. After reading the book, take a moment to show your children where Argentina is and, if they are old enough, have them write a report about the country. Better yet, how about a little family vacation? I'm free this July, so just give me a call when you're ready...
And to compliment the book, I am including a recipe of Carbonada (mentioned in the book) which is a typical Argentine stew of meat and vegetables. It is fairly simple and straightforward, so you might even have the kids give you a hand putting it together....

Carbonada Criolla

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds stewing beef, in 1-inch chunks
4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon oregano, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
3 baking potatoes, 1 inch dice
3 sweet potatoes, 1 inch dice
2 ears corn, cut into 1 inch widths
2 zucchini or yellow squash, in 1/2 inch dice
2 peaches in 1/2 inch dice
2 pears in 1/2 inch dice

Heat oil in heavy pot. Brown beef in batches. Remove from pan and set aside. Cook tomatoes, pepper, onion and garlic until soft. Add seasonings, stock and wine. Bring to boil scraping up browned bits, then return beef to pot with potatoes and sweet potatoes. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in corn and squash. Simmer 10 more minutes, until vegetables are almost fully tender, then add fruits and cook only 5 minutes more.


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