Cooking and eating through a new culture

Rice, Rice, Baby

Living out of a picnic cooler is rather challenging.

Now FINDING a refrigerator in Costa Rica is a down right struggle. First off, let’s get one thing straight here. Yes, Costa Rica has everything any expat can want…for a price. A stainless side by side can be delivered that day, but I have bought cars for less. We hunted all over town and settled on a scratch and dent place. There was a bit of a priority to our purchase since the day before I puked my guts out on fresh squeezed orange juice from the cooler that tasted “a little funny”.  Sometimes being that frugal is just not worth it. I spent weeks traveling through Central America eating things put in front of me that I had no idea what it was and never even suffered a bad burp. Three days after the farmers market fresh oj and I have my head in the toilet. Nice…

I will not lament my lovely kitchen back stateside…too much…but it was quite roomy. With the addition of the new fridge, my new kitchen has gone from quaint to cramped. I cannot even open the oven door without moving the fridge out of the kitchen.  Luckily the kitchen has a window overlooking a cinder block wall. But it is still a window none the less. A window with a sill wide enough for a few african violets. It works for me.

With the ability to store food longer than 24 hours and a tolerable way to cook, I began to think about how I am going to basically earn my keep around here. For all practical purposes, I am the illegal American house cleaner. A title I will proudly and happily carry. But let me make a few points about this before anyone gets their panties in a twist.  I entered into this deal knowing full well what I was getting into. I had no delusions about what moving to a third world country would be like. I love Rafa but that doesn’t mean we would not struggle. We have a small pot of money to dip in but we have to work. For the time being, Rafa is the sole bread-winner. And for someone who usually dated pasty white european boys, this whole Latin thing was new to me. But Rafa is no more a typical Tico that I am a typical American. There is not a machista bone in his body. So what do I do while he is bringing home the bacon? I keep the home fires burning…on a tight budget, with lots o’ love.

With three grocery stores and a weekend farmers market within walking distance, what does one look to make first? Beans and rice, baby.  But this also led me to my first dilemma. Typically, beans and rice here are made with a store brought bouillon packet. I must admit, even back stateside I mixed in a cube to punch my rice up a bit. I thought I was conscientious and purchased MSG free products. After all, I use to suffer from terrible headaches and made it a strong point not to consume MSG. Everything I saw at the store had MSG. So I went back home an re-evaluated my thoughts on MSG. Was it really that bad? Yep…it’s really that bad. Not only is it that bad, but it is in more products than I thought. I’m not a big fear monger but I do make it a point to eat the best food possible. Rarely do I purchase packaged products but after doing my research, I decided to stay away from them all together. Making stock is always an option, but the convenience of those little cubes and packets is hard to avoid. Until I found THIS:

The hard part for me was finding all the ingredients down here, all of which came from the farmers market with the exception of the salt and dried tomatoes. Cereraic root and fennel bulbs are non-existent. Although fennel bulb is known as bulbo de hinojo and can be found at certain times of the year. Just not now. So I upped the onion, leek ratio a bit. So far I have used this in rice and soup a couple of times and it is perfect. Rafa doesn’t even notice a difference. Not everybody has the time I do to putz in the kitchen but the ability to freeze this is invaluable. Try it! Tweek it. Make it your own. My next batch with have hot peppers. Nummers!


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2 thoughts on “Rice, Rice, Baby

  1. Great blog. I hear you on the cooking. When you are the home based person, the kitchen becomes king. Good wishes and prayers for you and Rafa and the MSG.

  2. Pingback: Feria Verde « consumingcostarica

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