I love the food here in Bolivia. Cochabamba in particular is known for its food. There are however, a few foods I miss from the US. It’ll be some time before my next Philly Cheesesteak; hamburgers here leave a lot to be desired; and the closest I can come to a Primanti’s sandwich is trancapecho. But possibly, the food I would miss the most is bagels.

For the record I love bagels—that was actually my first meal when I was visiting the US last November (a delicious everything bagel with a cup of coffee… heavenly!). Bagels are not easy to come by in Bolivia. Lucky for me, however, it is one of the few things I can make!

When I was with Franciscan Volunteer Ministry in Wilmington, DE, among other ministries, I spent my time in Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution. This was my first time working in a prison, and while I was mainly in the high school classroom I did pop into the culinary arts class from time to time. Many of my algebra students from the morning were also in the culinary class and would often encourage me to visit and try the various dishes they were learning to cook. I was pretty much a taste-tester.

One of the few class periods that I joined to learn alongside my students was the session on making bagels. I was amazed how much effort it took to knead the dough!  Ever since that class period I’ve made my own sporadically. Even though I’ve had the recipe memorized for years now, I still pull out the print-out from that class every time, because in some way it reminds me of my friends and former students. It is a continued connection to relationships that were impossible (and for a time, illegal) to maintain.

The reason I make bagels is the same reason I started spending time in the prisons here, because of those eye-opening relationships four years ago in BWCI. Those women shared so much with me during my time there, and I now I can share bagels as a special treat with my friends here in Bolivia.

My bagels may not be as good as my students used to make, but they are quite a treat for us here. Even more so now that I’ve found cream cheese! It has been a blessing for me to be able to share these with our community, and all the more so because it keeps alive the memory of my first visits to prison.

IMG_3660

Jeff sharing his bagels with his fellow missioners during their visit to Carmen Pampa