I am incredibly lucky. I was able to study abroad in Costa Rica for three months studying environmental science. I visited coffee farms, rainforests, volcanoes and beautiful national parks- not to mention I got to live on a small sustainable farm with 27 of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Oh yeah, and I got to conduct research on organic coffee farms, and proved (via soil research) that they are better than conventional. Needless to say, it was awesome.
Oh, Costa Rica. You have been so good to me. Now I am back in the cold, COLD little state of Rhode Island. You may have noticed my last post occurred over three months ago. That does not mean there was no good food in Costa Rica- there was. There was however, a lack of Internet, as well as a way to upload photos without breaking said internet. So I told myself I would save the pictures intended for this blog to my computer and upload them when I had fast internet in town or even when I returned home…….then my camera got stolen. Whoops.
Unfortunately there are none of my own photos to accompany but these are my top 5 Costa Rican favorite foods:
Like a potato…..kinda. This tuberous root contains a white starch similar to that of a ‘tater but has a very different texture. They grow underneath what looks like long spindly trees, until you pull that tree up and see there are…..potatoes underneath? Great mashed or steamed, but mostly great fried. Yum.
The official ketchup of Costa Rica. Personally, I like it better than ketchup. When I visited CR with my parents way back in the third grade, they came back to the states and specially ordered cases of this stuff. Not lying. Sweet, tangy and spicy, Lizano is a great compliment for just about anything, just like ketchup.
#3 Gallo Pinto
I ate this Every. Morning. For. Three. Months. But you know what, now that I don’t have it, I miss it. There really is no heartier breakfast than a large helping of rice and beans. I would have liked it even better if they used brown rice, but hey, you take what you can get. Basically it consists of kidney beans and white rice with a little bit of onions, cilantro and a special salsa. Everyone here eats it. Regular rice and beans was also served to me for Every. Single. Meal. For. Three. Months. Guess the Costa Ricans stick with what they like.
#2 Tres Leches
I stayed with a nice family in CR, and the moment I mentioned to the sweet mother that I enjoyed cooking, she dragged me into the kitchen to teach me how to make this. You basically start off with a regular old yellow cake, then you proceed to jab zillions of holes in it and then pour sweet milk all over it and let it sit. You then frost it with a condensed milk frosting. It is called tres leches because you literally use “three milks” when making it.
#1 Dulce de Leche
This stuff can be described accurately as caramelized condensed milk. However, I would describe it as the best thing to happen to bread, ever. Peanut butter and dulce de leche sandwiches were a staple of my diet in CR, and I would be lying if I said wasn’t going to purchase some back here in the states (yes, you CAN get it at the supermarket). Word on the street is that they bathe in that stuff in Argentina. My friend Lucy was there and she said people put it on literally EVERYTHING. Meat, rice, fruit, crackers, cheese, you name it. Stuff is so good, I can see why.
If I learned anything in Costa Rica, it was that you eat what is in front of you, literally. Everyone has a little garden in their yard, and there are small fruit vendors around every corner. These people eat local all the time, but it isn’t a trend or anything, it is a way of life. They live off the fat ‘o the land as one smart cookie author once put it. I really enjoyed Costa Rica, although I did really crave pumpkin, greek yogurt and good bread pretty much all the time. I do expect I will be back soon though.