I know that I’ve mentioned a little bit about the food already, but I’m going to talk about it again now. Besides, I can justify talking about the food more than once, because food is often a large component of a certain culture – and I only briefly mentioned food in my first posts. As many of you might already know, a huge part of the tico (Costa Rican) diet consists of rice and beans. Rice and beans here in the central valley are most commonly prepared as gallo pinto, which includes some very finely chopped vegetables and possibly ground meat (the dish known as “Rice and beans” in the Caribbean lowlands is supposedly prepared differently). In whatever form, rice and beans are eaten at most meals – yes, even breakfast for many people.
So far, I think breakfast has been my favorite. My usual breakfast consists of a cup of coffee, some form of bread (like a roll or bread with jam), and a large bowl of three different types of fruit – but which fruits I get each day are different. I go through a rotation of bananas, pineapple, melon (cantaloupe), papaya, watermelon, and mango. I absolutely love it. You can really taste the difference in having such fresh fruit. And that actually applies to a lot of the food that I eat here – I know that much of what I eat each week was purchased at the market just a few days before, and most of that food was grown just a few or a few hundred kilometers away.
The reason that food is so prominently on my mind is probably due to the “field trip” we had for class this week. We got to get out of the city and up into the mountains, north of the town of Heredia, and while we were there we visited Chris’s (the director of the ACM programs) organic farm. A good chunk of our day we talked about the benefits of organic farming and being organic consumers, and we enjoyed a delicious lunch that included many ingredients that we pulled out of the ground or cut off the tree just minutes before eating it, like lettuce, carrots, bananas, and another fruit I don’t remember the name of. I know it is meals like this that I will miss when I leave Costa Rica – although fortunately I’ll be returning to the U.S. for the summer months so I can enjoy some fresh produce from our garden and farmer’s markets, but it’s not something that we can make last all year round in Minnesota’s climate.
That leads me to the story about the one food I’ve had so far of which I prefer the U.S. version more: corn on the cob. Here, it was much smaller, and a grey-ish cream color, and tasted nearly as bland as it looked. It is ironic because it is actually the only food so far that my host mom has insisted that I eat more of; she was just trying to make sure that I got enough before my host brother and sister gobbled it all up. The three of them (my brother, sister, and mom) were so excited to eat the corn – my sister said it was one of her favorite foods. To increase the irony of my thoughts of longing for the juicy sweet corn that I was familiar with, my mom asked me about the corn on the cob in the U.S. She mentioned that they have eaten the corn on the cob from KFC before, and that she thought it was strange because it was sweet.
Okay, I just have one more quick story from this week to mention. At St. Olaf we often hear about people making crazy connections or meeting other Oles all over the country or in random situations (something that seems to be a trend with smaller liberal arts colleges it seems, the more I talk to the other students on the program with me), but now these connections are becoming international. The other day I was waiting for the bus to take home after class, when I saw someone I thought I recognized from St. Olaf – I had been in one class with her and I knew she was a few years older than me. She didn’t see me, but after a few moments of me making sure she was who I thought she was, I went up to her to say hi. It’s definitely a small world – she graduated from St. Olaf last year, and now she’s working at the University of Costa Rica teaching English. In a city as big as San Jose, ironically we take the same bus home from the University because we live in adjacent neighborhoods – crazy!