Chocolate Temptation

Chocolate brownies are popular around the world. They originated in the U.S and, even though there is no exact date for their creation, the recipe was first printed in 1906. Since then, a number of variations have been made, and now you can find more than 100,000 kinds on the internet. This moist and delicious chocolate dessert is considered a cookie bar, rather than a cake, because brownies are eaten with our fingers, like cookies, whereas cake requires the use of forks. Brownies can be eaten on their own or with ice cream on top, accompanied by a hot/cold beverage. Brownies were an accident, according to Betty Crocker’s…

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A Father First, by Hector Duarte Jr.

The restraining order only mentions her name, nothing of the twins. What better afternoon to show up and surprise them with their favorite birthday lunch? Peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Michelle likes hers as is: white bread, lots of peanut butter. Nichelle’s always been pickier: wheat bread with just a slather of spread and three slices of banana descending from the top left corner down to the right. “Like Tic Tac Toe,” she once said. Today you prove their mother wrong. Now it’s time to show actions speak louder and all the other shit she’s been sharing on Facebook lately. Lame portraits with the new man. A pathetic…

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Eating with Our Eyes

When it comes to food blogs, topics range from amateur cooking and specialty foods, to culinary photography. Many blogs emphasize heritage and tradition, techniques for home cooking, and traveling, evoking flavors from around the world. They celebrate the cultures and environments in which the dishes were created, along with the people who continue to create them. Latin cuisine spans a multitude of regions, which makes it highly rich and varied. The following blogs, selected by six writers in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, translate the joy of food onto the computer screen. Bolivia Bella includes the recipes for typical Bolivian dishes, such as Sopa de Mani. There…

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Dan Wakefield talks about Anthony Gagliano

One of my favorite people in the world: Dan Wakefield. Dan, who introduced me to the world of nonfiction at Florida International University, is a novelist, journalist and screenwriter whose best-selling memoir “New York in the Fifties” was produced as a documentary film. He spoke tonight in Miami at The Betsy Hotel on South Beach. Dan explains the context for this reading: “My best friend in Miami, who was a student in his classes at FIU, wrote a terrific mystery novel set in Miami (The Straits of Fortune) and tragically died of a stroke at age 54 while finishing his second novel. “Les Standiford, who is head of the FIU…

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Farewell to Arms, by Marie Ketsia Theodore-Pharel

They named the gator Chompsky, and laughed at the cleverness of the name that, like salve, calmed the fears raging and blistering inside tired minds. In between mounds of academic words for the thesis that was evading them, they’d escaped the claustrophobic Philosophy department for some just-us time off-campus. In the canal, the alligator propelled himself, his short legs folded, his eyes looking sideway; he chomped whatever flowed into his long, skinny snout. “So much for dipping our toes.” Sue’s cracked lips were lined with black eye-liner pencil. “Damn it,” Jess said. “I was just trying to be romantic. You wanted to recharge,” he snarled. Sue reached for…

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Catching Crazy, by Fabienne Josaphat

It’s twelve o’clock when I get the phone call from the hospital. My mother has died. I’m still holding the phone when Julien walks in. “Are you okay, Michou?” he asks me, drenched in sweat with a screw driver between his teeth. In his hand, he’s clasping a pair of pliers pried from our daughters’ hands. They were playing in his toolbox again and have now been relegated to the family room; they’re watching cartoons. “Yes, I’m fine.” He doesn’t understand that my mother has been dead to me for a long time now. He says he does but it’s only his way of putting an end to…

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Tarija, Bolivia: Passion Fruit Mousse

Meet Martha Tárraga Hevia y Vaca. She’s from Tarija, Bolivia, a city that chapacas singers used to call Tierra Andaluz or “Adalusian land” because of its wondrous rivers. Ever since she moved away from her birthplace, first to go to college in La Paz, and later to follow her father in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Martha misses home. She remembers her childhood’s orange trees, the tangerines, the grapefruits, the apples, and the peaches. Pomegranates, figs, and plums surrounded her parents’ house. Oh, and the flowers! Amancayas, daisies, and roses enchanted Young Martha. Today, she owns a garden almost as lovely as the garden of her childhood. The Mousse de…

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SUR: Maria Zanutti’s art collection

In the work of Bolivian artist Maria Zanutti/Alejandra Barbery, the magic holds even as the shapes and vibrant colors spin out of control—or is it precisely because they spin out of control? There is something brutally honest about a piece like Sor Maria Jesús de Agreda: a nun reimagines her world to cast away boredom—she surrounds herself with shapes of all sizes and colors, and the general bah-bah-boom we get is reminiscent of the distorting mirrors in a fun house where nothing is as it seems. The piece also seems to look down on perfection because, after all, we’re just human. There is, however, somehow, order in the chaos…

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Majadito: Bolivia’s Treasure

El “Majadito” is one of the most famous dishes of Bolivia. It comes from the eastern side of the country, from the very heart of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. This dish was created during the pre-Columbian era when people mostly depended on meat, cassava, plantains, rice, and other grains. The word “majau” means smashed meat; -ito is a Spanish diminutive suffix. El majadito has become a traditional dish found in all nine departments of Bolivia. The traditional ingredients for this succulent dish include rice, jerky, chopped onions, urucu seeds (to color the rice), eggs, plantains, garlic and cumin. However, nowadays, el majadito can be prepared in many ways. Some…

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Laura McDermott: Scenes from the Rearview Mirror

_______________ 1. Barreling through the Everglades on the 85 mile stretch of two lane highway linking civilization to civilization a land bridge of asphalt, you, Lover, appear there beside me, bumming off a ride. For the loveliest words I wished you’d say are the words I have not said. This flat road stretches like the highway of the mind leaving garages full of soundless engines, their silence threading a tunnel, etched with the cold moisture of a solitary wildflower, whose delicate fists bursting in fuchsia without a direction, as gentle signs emerging from the ashes of a recent burn in the pine. Those words ashy as they float…

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Fitzgerald and Hemingway had the Dingo Bar. We have the Marguerita Parlor.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. At Sir Francis Café, on Monseñor Rivero Ave., I ponder my inner struggle of wanting to belong, to find a place to feel at home. I am deep into my thirties and some of my life priorities are changing, and maybe my perspective, too. I‘m waiting for Paola Senseve.   Writers—singular, lonesome creatures—always find each other. We fraternize because we recognize how much our (re)created world matters.  We’re fellow travelers, willing to let our characters take us away from our normal lives, and yet paradoxically bring us closer to reality, because the emotional world of stories unfailingly bleeds into real life, adding…

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The Florida Book Review gets a new home!

Update your bookmarks! The Florida Book Review is currently moving into its new site, at FloridaBookReview.net. Founded by Lynne Barrett and Susan Jo Parsons, The Florida Book Review features reviews of books with Florida settings or subjects, as well as interviews and essays about Florida’s literary scene. Editor Lynne Barrett was one of my mentors at Florida International University. She is the award-winning author of  the story collections The Secret Names of Women, The Land of Go, and Magpies. She co-edited Birth: A Literary Companion and The James M. Cain Cookbook.  Her work has appeared in Delta Blues, A Dixie Christmas, Miami Noir, One Year to a Writing Life,Simply the Best Mysteries, A Hell…

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A Canadian Thanksgiving, by Daniela Lara Serna

The United States isn’t the only country in the world where people celebrate Thanksgiving. Here are five others: Canada, Liberia, (one town in) the Netherlands, Grenada, and the Australian territory of the Norfolk Island. According to Zack Beauchamp, “Canadian Thanksgiving is about the 1578 voyage of Arthur Frobisher, a British explorer who threw a meal for his crew when they (barely) made it to Canadian shores alive.” Today, Daniela Lara Serna, who now lives in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, reminisces about her Canadian Thanksgiving. Letter from Canada, 2013 At six in the morning, my friend Kristen and I started on the main dish: the magnificent turkey.…

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A Classic with a Twist, by Milena Gigliotti

Apple pie is a regular guest at Thanksgiving parties across the U.S. In Bolivia, this dessert is not as popular, but those who enjoy it wish it were available in more coffee shops and bakeries. My cousin-in-law, Eliana, is the creator of one of the best apple pies I have tasted in Santa Cruz. These are the ingredients in her recipe: 250 gr. of flour 50 gr. of butter 370 gr. of condensed milk 4 big apples (red or green) 4 tsp. of cold water 1 tsp. of salt 2-3 lemons 1 tbsp. of cinnamon Eliana said that before working on the filling of the pie, the dough…

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