At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels through Paraguay– John Gimlette
My latest literary journey brought me to a landlocked South American country: Paraguay.
The book is titled At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels through Paraguay and is written by British author John Gimlette. Gillette breaks the book into the three sections of Paraguay he travels to. He begins in Asuncion, the capital, then moves into Eastern Paraguay and finishes up in the Chaco. Each of these sections depicts a different part of Paraguay and along with it the people, the culture, the customs, and the history. For one country, each area is so unique. Asunción is the more “urban” city with richer and poorer neighborhoods. Eastern Paraguay is comprised of travels between smaller cities and towns. This was by far my favorite part of the book. (Picture above is Areguá, located in Eastern Paraguay.) The scenes Gimlette describes in this section sound unbelievably beautiful. The last section is Chaco and describes the infamous desert that was the scene of a devastating war. (Overall, the book is set up pretty similarly to the Uzbekistan book. Also, where do I sign up for this job?!)
I know this description is brief, but I’m still digesting this dense book. The interwoven history bogged me down more than once. Most likely because I know nothing about South American history. (I feel a little failed by my Bachelor degree in History right now.) One of the main themes I immediately noticed was how their history is littered with so many corruptive and hash leaders. Some of the torture techniques and oppression faced by these citizens is depressing and horrific. However, the people of Paraguay prevailed. And some of them Gimlette encounters seem like some of the nicest people around.
One of the most surprising aspects I learned was how many cultures have moved in and out of this country. About halfway through, I tried to note them as they came up but definitely didn’t get them all. There were Australians, Germans, Irish, Japanese, Koreans, Spanish, Italians, Scots, Argentinians, Ukrainians and people from the US. Each of these groups had more than a paragraph of impact into wherever they moved in. Talk about a melting pot. It made me think about what other countries may have a large international cultural presence in addition to the US and Paraguay. Fascinating. Oh, and you can’t forget about the huge Nazi presence and the cannibals. No big deal.
Would I recommend this book? Yes. Overall, it’s an interesting read and a good overview of Paraguay. Does this book me want to visit? NO! There were way too many pages filled burrowing bugs, powerful piranhas, and slithering snakes for me.
♦♦ Culture Bit: Recipes ♦♦
Gimlette did talk about a lot of different types of food throughout the book. Some of the most popular were chipa, sopa paraguaya, and piranha soup. Yep, soup made with piranhas! I had to look it up to believe it. I found some recipes for these foods and I’ll share them with you all. If you decide to try them (or have tried them in the past) PLEASE comment below and tell me how they were. I’m so interested to know!
-> Chipa are small, cheese flavored rolls. They sound delicious. There is actually a bakery around here that sells them. I think I’ll have to go try them sometime!
-> When I first read about sopa paraguaya I thought it was a soup of some sort. Because sopa translates to soup. (Sopa was also a controversial government bill about online piracy. Thank you to David for reminding me of that.) Anyways, this dish is actually a dense cornbread. And it sounds delicious! This is something I’d definitely want to try!
-> Finally, piranha soup. I didn’t believe this was real. I never imagined you could eat piranhas. So when I found this recipe, I was shocked! After looking at the ingredients, it doesn’t sound that bad, either. I think I’d definitely try it with some of the other fish listed. Warning: the second picture on this picture is INSANE. Seriously, go look.