Earlier this year, I spent eight days in Honduras and took in the sights and smells of a vibrant food culture: fresh tortillas made by hand in local shops; coconut-based fish sauces and mashed yellow cassava on the Caribbean coast; and exotic fruits like guanabana found in bustling farmers markets.
I also met some of the farmers who grow and sell the crops that make delicious cuisine possible both locally and in other countries that import Honduran fruit, vegetables, coffee and other food products. In the small town of Cane that I visited, 90 minutes from the capital of Tegucigalpa, these farmers are increasing their sales and incomes with assistance from the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, which connects them to markets and teaches them best practices for improving agricultural production. Across parts of western Honduras, Feed the Future is working to help tens of thousands of rural households grow high-value crops and lift themselves out of poverty.
Feed the Future is also supporting better nutrition in Honduras, and in Cane I urged the farmers I met to eat the nutrient-packed vegetables growing on their household plots in addition to selling them for income. In a country where many people’s diets are comprised mainly of beans, corn and rice, horticultural crops like eggplant, limes and zucchini can have a big impact on dietary diversity and lifelong health, particularly in children.
Back in Tegucigalpa, I had a chance to practice what I preached by showing culinary students how to cook one of my signature dishes, the “Garden of Eden,” serving grilled bone marrow alongside delicious sautéed vegetables and flavorful sauces made with ingredients sourced from the farmers I met in Cane.
During my trip to Honduras, I was proud to be representing the American Chef Corps, a group of 60 chefs sponsored through the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership to elevate culinary engagement in America’s public diplomacy efforts. The United States has its own rich food culture and history to share with the world, but leadership on global food security and nutrition is another important way that America demonstrates its core values.
On July 4th, when many Americans will gather at picnics and barbecues to celebrate the nation’s independence, we can also take pride in our country’s efforts to ensure no child goes to bed hungry. As I saw in Honduras, U.S. leadership in the fight to end hunger is making a difference for many families and communities, helping them realize possibilities that contribute to a more peaceful, prosperous and secure world.
More than 200 years ago, the United States declared its freedom and took up the pursuit of the American dream. Today, we’re working in partnership with the global community to achieve freedom from poverty and hunger, a goal that is possible with continued commitment and focus. I hope that dream inspires you as much as it does me.
This blog was contributed by Guillermo Pernot, two-time winner of the James Beard Foundation Award for culinary excellence. Read more about his trip to Honduras in the June issue of the Department of State Magazine or check out the American Chef Corps’ participation in the 2015 Milan Expo.
Check out Chef Pernot’s recipe for vitamin A-packed buñuelos de espinaca (fried dough balls with spinach)!
Buñuelos de Espinaca
For the dough:
Cook spinach with salt in a dry pot, cover until tender 4-5 minutes. Drain well and chop.
In a sauté pan, add oil and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add spinach and sauté for another minute.
In a saucepan, add the water, butter, nutmeg and salt. When water comes to a boil and butter has melted, add flour all at once, lower the heat and stir until the dough leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Continue cooking for a minute or two.
Turn off the heat and beat the eggs in once at a time. The dough will separate, then hold together again. Stir in the chopped spinach and the cheese until fully incorporated.
Drop dough by the teaspoonful unto hot oil to fry.