Peanut Soup – A Delicious Microcosm of the Slow Life

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From planting, to harvesting, to de-shelling, to cooking, to eating, peanut soup is a delicious microcosm of life at a slower pace

Food is medicine – it nourishes, it connects, it heals.

In rural parts of the Chaco, where people spend most days growing and raising food for themselves and their families, food is the central axis around which all of life revolves.

Meal time in the Chaco

The Chaco’s complex topography creates endless micro climates where a vast number of crops flourish

The Chaco along its western and northern limits is a land of rich soil and ample, if seasonal, rainfall. Its complex topography creates endless micro climates, where a vast number of crops, including peaches, oranges, manioc, sugar cane, apples, bananas, potatoes, and “maní” – peanuts – flourish.

Peanuts are legumes (also known as the bean or pea family) and, like most legumes, possess nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their roots. That means rotating to peanuts after the cultivation of more nutrient-hungry crops like corn helps weary soils to recover.

Developing pods of a peanut plant

The peanut’s scientific name means “under the earth”

If you’ve never seen a peanut field, which you probably haven’t, you may not know that peanuts grow underground! In fact, the peanut’s scientific species name, hypogaea, means “under the earth.” Many Chaqueños still participate in the laborious act of planting and digging peanuts by hand.

In Bolivia, peanuts are consumed in many forms, none more perfectly delicious than peanut soup (“sopa de maní”)! Native to the Cochabamba region, many consider it the most remarkable dish in all of Bolivian cuisine.

Liquid gold

The secret to a good peanut soup is in the slow hand of the “cocinera”

Preparing a good peanut soup is a labor of love, whose secret lies in the slow hand of the “cocinera” – the chef. First comes the de-shelling, washing, and pureeing of the peanuts, which are then boiled, and boiled, and boiled. Meat (typically beef or pork) and vegetables are added, and the soup, in its creamy yellowish white cauldron, boils some more. When ready, the “cocinera” proudly adorns each plate with a garnish of fresh parsley and golden crisp shoestring potatoes. “Ricoooooooo”.

From planting, to harvesting, to de-shelling, to cooking, to eating, peanut soup is a delicious microcosm of life at a slower pace. In the modern world of instant everything, it is a reminder that good things take time, and forethought. A delicious meal begins months earlier in the sweat and dirt of a peanut field. When you live the slow life, you notice more, you’re more present in the moment, you enjoy every last bite. The “cocineras” know this instinctively, for they have been living and cooking this way all their lives. “Sopa de maní” is medicine, and they dish it out in delectable bowl-sized doses.

For those interested in living the slow life and enjoying it, here’s a Bolivian peanut soup recipe. “Buen provecho”!

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