Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner — every meal consists of the classic dish of Rice and Beans. Now to many of us Americans, Rice and Beans may appear to be a simple dish only containing the very obvious rice and beans. However, in Costa Rica there are many different levels of this culturally lavish dish.
For instance, Chicken Rice and Beans consists of chicken and vegetables marinaded in rich coconut milk and hot chilies. This form of rice and beans is often saved for special occasions such as weddings, birthday parties or major dinner events. I was lucky enough to be served this delicious meal by my home stay family in Suerre.
PIntos is the classic dish many of us envision when we think of rice and beans. This is your basic meal involving black beans and white rice. Often this version is served with eggs and a tomato for breakfast.
The beauty of rice and beans is its simplicity and affordability. Rich or poor rice and beans are basic ingredients that most Costa Ricans can afford to serve to their guests and eat on a regular basis. However, with this convenience also comes some flaws. Eating rice and beans for every meal can become very repetitive. The difference in taste between the versions of rice and beans are subtle enough to make eating this meal more of chore than a luxury for visitors such as myself.
Most of our meals we have had have been provided by the campus cafeteria. We have had a few meals with our home stay families and off campus restaurants but the majority of meals have been through Earth University. The campus meals are extremely simple. Abiding to the university’s mission of fostering a learning environment that encourages sustainability and environmental friendliness, the cafeteria focuses on serving healthy, simple meals supplied by the food grown on the university’s farm. These healthy and local meals are indeed refreshing and delicious. However, adding the variety of sporadic off campus meals has helped maintain variety in my daily diet.
Besides rice and beans Costa Rica has many different unique foods to offer. Their extensive supply of unique fruits never ceases to amaze me. My favorite so far has been the Soursop fruit and Mamon Chino have been two of my favorites. Both of these fruits appear ugly and awkward from the outside. But once you crack open them their juicy sweet taste is unforgettable, leaving a fresh and lasting flavor in your mouth.
My favorite food unique to Costa Rica has been the empanadas and fried plantains. Both of these foods have been served at breakfast. The empanada almost looks like a hot pocket from the freezer section in the US. A fried pastry on the outside encasing rice, beans, vegetables and/or ground beef inside. Fried plantains often our cooked in butter with sugar glazed on top making the perfect sugary addition to your morning meal.
In Costa Rica food is the center of every family and every big event. Good food is what brings families and friends together and unites people from all different backgrounds. Every person, man or woman, prides themselves on the food they cook making sure they have at least one signature meal they can mark as their own. Trying new dishes and embracing the local cuisine has provided yet another lens of understanding within the Costa Rican culture. Understanding a country’s food has proved to be one of the better ways to peak into the truths of any culture.