I travelled to Paraguay in 2010 to speak at a conference hosted by the Inter-America Development Bank and other partners. The goal was to help the Paraguay Ministry of Education and other local education organizations plan and implement technology-rich learning environments in their schools. The official events spanned a couple days and included the usual presentations and panel discussions. Over the course of the week, we also had some time to explore the countryside. On one of those afternoons, a couple of the other invited guest speakers and I decided to do some sightseeing. One of the local Ministry staff helped us hire a driver, and we left the Capitol of Ascuncion for more rural areas where we visited the oldest church in the country and other cultural sights. Along the way, our driver stopped at a roadside stand where a solitary woman waited with a cloth wrapped basket filled with Chipa Argolla
We took a break from the driving to stretch our legs and have a snack. As is always the case when you are traveling in a place very different than your own home that the food was extra good. The chipa were a little chewy, cheesy, and moist. The stand happened to be at a high point on a hill, so we have a terrific view of the countryside. These along with the empanada I found on the day I landed in Paraguay were the most memorable foods I had on that trip as most of my meals were served as part of the event. And, amazingly, no matter where in the world you go, it seems like conference food comes from the same kitchen. I think we had chicken. I might be remembering that wrong, but it was definitely not memorable enough to stick in my memories of that trip!
At the time, I only learned that it was a cheese bread that was common throughout the country. It wasn’t until returning to the states that I looked up more information about them. Recipes for Chipa are all pretty similar. I suspect that locally, the variations have a lot to do with how your mother or grandmother baked them. What’s common are cassava flour, Paraguay cheese, anise seeds, and eggs. These are not yeasted breads. Some include corn meal/flour, others are all cassava. Sometimes they are associated with Holy Week, the week leading to Easter, but my sense was that Chipa are eaten all year, and are not a holiday-only food. I was in Paraguay in September, so months away from Easter.