Lunch with a Paraguayan National Treasure

Martínez even explained the winding etymology of vorí vorí, small spherical dumplings of corn flour and cheese, usually served in a chicken broth. The name is derived from the Spanish word bolita, or “little ball.” In Guaraní, that’s pronounced vorita, and the word was eventually affectionately shortened to just vorí. Ever the poet, neither the beauty of Paraguay’s language nor its cuisine are lost on her. Later that day, she unexpectedly sang—or more like rapped—a recipe for the dish in Guaraní, using a vocal technique called tangara traditionally used by the Guaraní to share cultural knowledge. The rhyming words, she later told me, explained the recipe’s instructions, like how to test a kernel of boiled corn with your teeth to see if it was ready for “the gentle wind to help dry,” and then how, “with agile arms and rhythmic strokes, it will be flour.” To her, the history of Paraguayan food means little if the poetry is left out.

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