The high point of today was a trip to a home-scale casabe factory. Casabe, which is made from yuca (also known as cassava or manioc) is a staple food in the Dominican Republic. Moncion happens to the be the casabe capital of the DR--maybe even the universe. There are several large scale factories here, but we drive by a home-scale factory at least twice a day. Today, we decided to stop and see how they do it. Yuca originated in the Caribbean, and has since spread throughout the world, via colonialism. It takes a long time to grow (18 months), and resembles a small tree. The root is waxy and brown and tastes a bit like a potato when boiled. Casabe is made from the crushed yuca root.
There are several stages of washing, crushing, straining, pulverizing, sifting, etc. before it becomes a kind of lumpy powder. This dried powder is spread inside cast iron rings on a wood fired griddle and roasted until it gets crispy. More yuca root powder is added, and the casabe is turned to cook on the other side. When done (a process that takes a few minutes) the casabe is stacked, cut (with a bandsaw!) and wrapped for sale.
Mechi, the woman who owns this factory, sells her product mostly on the "Road to Moncion" but also in Mao (the closest large town). She was delighted to share her very fine product with us and sent us home with a couple freshly wrapped packs for the equivalent of a couple dollars. The price of food continues to rise due to CAFTA-DR (Central American Free Trade Agreement), the consequent increase of food imports and the decline in the viability of food production in Dominican Republic. As we are finding out, the rising food prices are causing a tremendous amount of anxiety among poorly paid banana workers.
I hope that small-scale, home-based production of indigenous and locally-produced and consumed foods can remain viable in a rapidly changing economic situation. Indeed, given what we are finding out about the impact of globalization here, it may be the only kind of enterprise that does. Or dare I say, should...