Every year small groups of young Chilean professionals come to Aysén to better understand the realities of life in the more isolated areas of their country. They are assigned to work in the small towns and rural areas of the region, using their professional talents and skills to assist with community development. They work for the National Foundation for Overcoming Poverty, as participants in the program, Servicio País (Service to Country), an important program that has had a presence in the Fjords and Channels Area and each of the other four Cultural Areas of Aysén, since 1995.
The program works because participants do not come to impose their ideas in a one-size-fits-all fashion; rather, they adapt their styles and ideas to the realities of their environment in order to promote the potential that is already present in the region’s communities. And of course, in a short period of time, many of them become part of their community; some have even stayed for good, forming families and changing the course of their own lives and others.
What does all this have to do with a recipe for paella?
Well, one year (not too long ago), a group of Servicio País professionals working in the fjords and channels of Aysén, joined together with their friends in the community and with colleagues in other areas, and created an amazing feast. Everyone brought something from their local area. Folks from the fjords and channels brought seafood. Others came from Coyhaique, with rice, artisan beer and wine. Still more showed up from La Junta, with fresh vegetables, chicken, smoked pork and chorizo sausages. With all the helpers, celebration and great ingredients, they created an exquisite paella Aysénina, mixing the fresh products of the area with the collaborative spirit of its people.
Now, we invite you to try this recipe; but a word of advice, the most critical of all the ingredients are friendship and a spirit of celebration. You can ad lib all the rest!