It’s #FoodFriday y’all!
#FoodFriday is going to be the part of my blog where I can share my pasión por la comida! I’ll be honest, I have a feeling that this #FoodFriday thing won’t make it past the next 3 months of training in San Isidro, but I’m going to try. I really am! If anything, when I get to my site (most likely going to be somewhere rural) I’ll just have to write about rice and beans every Friday with some mysterious twist. Will there be salt? pepper? spices? hot sauce?! Who knows. It’s a misterio!
On to the food! Where to start?
My host mom Claudia works from home and also runs a semi-sort of-not really a business-small business out of her kitchen making empanadas and cakes. Her empanadas are AMAZING and her cakes are OUT OF THIS WORLD crazy beautiful, delicioso y muy rico!
Most nights during the week I come home from class and help my host mom make empanadas. And by help I mean put the filling in, fold the dough circle thing in half and push the ends down with a tenedor (fork) to make that little fancy design on the end (you know what I’m talking about).
My host mom bakes (specializes in) a sweet kind of empanadas filled with either a pineapple or chiverre jalea (jelly). Chiverre (also known as black-seed squash or pie melon) is a type of squash that is green and massive. Both are really tasty but the chiverre es mi favorito! It has a fig/date texture, taste and appearance (OM NOM NOM). The chiverre empanadas are also a staple of Semana Santa (holy week) which begins Sunday, March 20 (along with a 5-10 lb. weight gain, so I hear). Bring. it. on.
#2. PEJIBAYE (peh-he-bye-aye)
Last Sunday I went to la feria with my host parents. Las ferias are just like farmer’s markets with fruit, meat, cheese (queso!), and artisan vendors.
When my host mom grocery shops, she only shops for food for the next few days unlike in Los Estados Unidos where most people shop for a week or more. The casa that I live in is small (including a very small kitchen) that doesn’t have a lot of space. In a sense, it encourages and forces my host family to live minimalistically (is that a word? It is now).
At the market, we bought eggs** and produce for the next few days, including…pejibaye! So, what are pejibaye? They’re a highly nutritious species of palm/fruit that are native to South and Central America and, originally founded in Costa Rica (wha whaaa). They grow on tall trees in some seriously big clusters and look like small bell peppers or persimmons.
What do pejibaye taste like? They have a buttery, dry, slightly bitter, firm, squashy, roasted, nutty sort of flavor. My host mom cooked them by boiling them then tossing them around in some aceite (oil) before peeling the skin off. Presente: pejibaye! The taste of the pejibaye alone was a little…interesting and new but I think it would taste great in a dish with a few other flavors and textures.
Living in San Isidro allows for easy access to fresh fruits, verduras (vegetables), las ferias, markets and supermarkets which, for most Peace Corps volunteers, will change dramatically at the official start of service mid-May when we move to mostly rural areas throughout the country.
During the next three months I will relish this life of luxury in terms of comida, transportation, wifi availability and general commodities (except for the warm showers because those are gone already, bah!). And, enjoy the time I get to spend with my host mom and sisters in the kitchen learning local (tico) foods and also showing them foods from my country (it’s pizza night tomorrow!).
In a place where language is a bit of a barrier, preparing food together has been a way for my family and me to get to know one another and learn about each other’s culture. Para mi, comida (and coffee, of course) has been at the forefront of integrating into my host family and country in addition to learning more about the Costa Rican culture.
Reflecting on this post…how did I not include a rice dish? Costa Rica is all about dat rice and you bet there’s going to be a saucy carb-filled rice dish on tap for next #FoodFriday. ¡Hasta Entonces!
**got somethin to say bout dem eggs: there is no washing step in Costa Rica (and other countries where refrigeration is expensive and limited/nonexistent). The eggs are cleaned while they are dry and then transported at room temperature. If eggs stay dry throughout the cleaning and transportation process they maintain a natural protection against pathogens and other diseases. Therefore, they don’t need to be refrigerated.