One of the most effective language and culture learning activities I've been using is cooking with Garifuna women. One advantage is hearing words and phrases repeatedly with minor variations: "Add salt," "Add a little onion," "We're going to boil it," "We're going to stir it," etc. I know a lot of kitchen vocabulary, so hearing it in a context while I complete an action reinforces what I know and helps me absorb small amounts of new information.
Another benefit is that doing an activity together reduces mental fatigue for me and patience depletion for the other person (!!!). =) It kind of takes the pressure off of conversations. Plus, I get to overhear what women say to their children, to other people who stop by, or even to themselves ("Where did I put ___?"). This is much more natural than explicitly asking how to say these expressions.
As some of you know, cooking has never been my forté. Furthermore, with a new array of ingredients available here (add yuca, for example, and take away CHOCOLATE CHIPS - sigh...) and cooking approaches (forget recipes, just call an older or sister or cousin if needed), I can use all the help available! It is a lot of fun and makes me think a Garifuna cookbook might be a fun project someday.
I thought I'd show you some of the things I've learned to make.
(The picture is not mine.) This is a typical meal of fried fish (úduraü), fried plantains (baruru), and rice and beans (literally called "rice and beans" in Garifuna). The hardest part is cleaning the fish (afúleihani), but the rest is easy: you just cut slits in the sides and put salt there before frying them. After almost losing a thumbnail, I can finally do a decent job slicing plantains. To make rice and beans, you season and boil the beans, and then add the residual water plus coconut milk (instead of water) to cook the rice, and you add the rest of the beans at the end. Sunha! (Done!)
This is tapado, a coconut soup with fish, ripe plantains, cooked green bananas, yuca, and spices.
Finally, I have to show a new cookie recipe I've found (cookies are typically the only edible thing I make). Step one is buying darara, yuca flour, at the local market (completing the transaction in Garifuna, of course). Then you just add a bit of salt (salu), an egg (gañéin), sugar (súgara), and oil (agüle), roll and flatten the dough into the size you want, and bake it. You might imagine the intended recipient of the cookies in the picture (my official tastetester).