The Standard of Paraguyuan Cuisine

By: Douglas Scott

Landlocked in the centre of the continent and hemmed in by much bigger, more exotic locales, Paraguay is primarily rural and largely unspoilt. Relatively untouched by tourism, it is strongly influenced by its Guarani heritage and by a turbulent history of dictatorship and oppression. Guarani is still taught in schools and outside the cities, it often replaces Spanish as the spoken tongue.

As a result of the un savouries of the country under Stroessners rule, Paraguay has generally been omitted from many South American travel itineraries, and the country has acquired an undeserved reputation as boring and uninteresting amongst the travelling community. Due to a relative lack of demand, not much of a tourist infrastructure has been put in place and theres little commercial build up, especially compared with that of neighbouring countries like Argentina and Brazil indeed, areas devoted to tourism concerns tend to be right at border crossings, like Ciudad del Este, which youll hit coming from Brazil.

Nevertheless, if you make the journey youll be rewarded with a sense of exploration and taste of a much unvarnished South America in the small villages and relatively untrammelled national parks that dot the land.

Notorious for its extremes of climate. Paraguayan weather can be unbearable at times. Temperatures in the Chaco can be uncomfortably high in the summer December to February, with an average of 40 and very little rainfall. Southern Paraguay is rather more humid, with rain likely to fall throughout the year, though lowest in winter June though August. Here, summer temperatures average around 35, although the humidity can make it feel unpleasant. Winter temperatures are rather more variable, averaging around 22, though occasionally dipping to freezing point. Perhaps the best times to visit are the spring March to May and autumn September to November when temperatures are rather more amenable. During this time of year, however, cold fronts blowing in from the Argentine pampas can cause sudden drops of temperature from hot to near freezing in a matter of hours. If visiting outside the summer months it is only sensible to prepare for any eventuality.

If youre coming from Argentina or Brazil you are likely to be disappointed by the standard of Paraguyuan cuisine. Outside the capital, the majority of restaurants serve up a depressingly similar and rather bland menu of junk food, and it is only in Asuncion and the larger cities that you will find any real variety.

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