In early February, I interviewed female borrowers in rural Guatemala. Fresh in the field, I was intimidated by seasoned farmers, leathered hands, and weathered grins. My pleated khakis seemed out of place.  We bounced through conversation enjoying the novelty of unfamiliar company.

 
 
When a female farmer, Fidelia, described the success of her artichoke crop, I commented that I like artichoke dip. Fidelia narrowed her gaze, doubting me. “No, really,” I responded, “with enough butter even dirt tastes good.” Again her head craned and she asked if I knew how to cook. “I’m no chef,” I assured, “but you bring the artichokes and we’ll whip up a dip in no time.”



Artichoke Prep (60 – 90 min)
Step 1: Boil 4 Artichokes,                                                       *they are done when the leaves come off easily*
Step 2: Remove all Artichoke leaves,                                      *set aside to eat later*
Step 3: Scoop out the fibrous center of the Artichoke hearts.
Step 4: Chop Artichoke hearts and set aside



The ladies extended their invitation and two Kiva staff-members visiting Guatemala joined our inaugural “Intercambio de Cocina” (coined by our host, Doña Feliza).  As the artichokes boiled over the wood-burning stove-top, the ladies taught us to make corn tortillas.  It is said that when a Guatemalteca can make a proper tortilla, she is ready to marry. Apparently we gringos are still far from the altar.
 

Farmer Fidelia sells the artichokes wholesale in Guatemala City.  She admitted that she had only once tried to cook her own artichokes.  I confessed that I had only cooked with canned artichokes before.  A bit of a culinary experiment for us all. With Hercilia taking copious notes, I wish I had paid more attention to “Iron Chef.”  Thankfully, the women promised to teach me local dishes for our next Kitchen Exchange.
 
 

Spinach Prep (30 min)
Step 1: Mince and caramelize 3 onions                                *don’t be afraid to burn them*
Step 2: Mince Garlic                                                             *add garlic after onions are turning brown*
Step 3: Wash Spinach, sauté, and then set aside                *let it get wilty and saucy*
 
 
I won’t belabor the virtues of cooking, but few things bring people together better than making a meal.  With a common goal we can overlook formalities. You forget yourself when your hands are busy. Personality just comes out.
 

Microfinance makes things better.  But I have found that it’s easy to get lost in the numbers and spreadsheets.  As a colleague once reminded me, “never forget that poverty is not a percentage, but people who are poor.” In my experience, it’s the downtime conversations and belly-laughs that restore dignity.  When done right, microfinance paves the way to a common bond.  Kiva really does connect people through lending.
 

Combo Time (10 min)
Step 1: Sautee Artichoke hearts until brown
Step 2: Add spinach and caramelized onions
Step 3: Add cream cheese, stir, and you got yourself a dip.


 
The dip turned out splendidly rich and with fresh warm tortillas, the kitchen got real quiet.  A rustic blend of Guatemalan tradition and down-home Americana. The gringos and kids plowed through their plates, but the ladies politely restrained themselves.  As I mopped up the last spread of artichoke dip, I asked Feliza 
 why she had failed to finish her portion.  “To share,” she responded matter of fact, “my husband is going to love this.”
 
“I hope that you guys enjoyed the recipe.” - Jeff
“Oh, I’m making it this weekend,” - Fidelia
 
 
 
Ingredients:
Artichokes                           4 whole
Onions                                 3 medium
Garlic                                   6 cloves
Spinach                                a couple handfuls
Butter                                  a stick
Cream Cheese                      8 ounces



When our inevitable departure arrived, our host Feliza reminded us that we come from the same root, the same maker, live under the same sun, and are of one family. I dream of that family sometimes. Maybe a family-reunion feast without the t-shirts. Enough to share, hard to hoard, fireworks, and the whole bit.  Who’s bringing tortillas? Because we’ve got the dip!
 
 
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All photo and video credits to Eric Brandt of the Kiva Fellows Program and Alexandra Jaffe of the Kiva Product Department.

Jeffrey Nelson is a Kiva Fellow (KF20) currently roaming Guatemala. He has been living in Panajachel and working with two field partners: 
Friendship Bridge, which lends exclusively to indigenous women in the western highlands of Guatemala, and ADICLA whose diverse lending portfolio includes youth entrepreneurship and environmentally sustainable agricultural loans to Guatemala’s rural poor. 

Join the "Viva Guatemala" lending team and make a loan to borrowers from Friendship Bridge, and ADICLA today!

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Jeffrey Nelson Born and raised in Minnesota, Jeffrey earned his B.A. in Economics from Wheaton College outside of Chicago. During his collegiate studies, Jeffrey became passionate about small-scale enterprise and economic development. After composing financial literacy curriculums for inner-city high schools, Jeffrey spent two years as a program strategist with FundaVida, an NGO based in San Jose, Costa Rica. This past summer he worked on a conservation campaign with the EPA, canoeing the entire Mississippi River with his closest college friends. Jeffrey is excited to collaborate with and learn from Kiva's lending partners in Latin Ameria this year. As an extension of his fellowship, Jeffrey is pursuing a career in holistic community development in marginalized urban contexts.