Cooking and eating through a new culture

What the market can bear.

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Stunning, isn’t it? I had to cheese out and give visuals for a change. Unfortunately, you can’t feel the energy of the place, with the callers, and hagglers and people jostling for space. We are on a third world budget. That is not a complaint, or a worry, just a fact. I really kinda see it as a challenge to make great meals on about $50 a week, give or take. This week, the cupboards were bare and we needed to hit the local market hard.

For about $30, we stocked up. This included the fresh orange juice and cheese too. Two quarts of fresh squeezed costs about $3.50 and it’s well worth it. They also have a special machine that runs through sugar canes to make raw sugar cane water. It is divine. Not tooth achingly sweet but very sweet, none the less. The operation is run by a family of immigrants. I say that in the sense that most americans are immigrants. The daughters are pale with freckles, the dad has bright green eyes. They are the typical rural Costa Ricans and don’t speak a lick of English. We bring our own bottle. The dad just takes it and fills it with oj. I don’t have to say a word. I’m being recognized now by the vendors since I usually stick with the same ones. I am called “Blanquita”. Just a nicer version of “whitey”. Rafa monitors my transactions, checking to see if I am getting ripped off. So far, it’s been fine. I even had a guy run after me when I walked away without my change. The market does have its fair share of gringos, good spanish speaking ones. Yet they look so odd to me. They poke around this culinary masterpiece of food and buy apples. Apples? Ugh…I rather eat sushi in Oklahoma. Usually, a tiny, sweet child will spot me and with an imploring tone, try to sell me apples. The Washington stickers are still on them. I will never eat an apple in Costa Rica. Never.

Food is not cheap. I would say the prices equal the US or are higher. But it is the odd things that are inexpensive; flax-seed, honey, eggs, raw sugar, and obviously the fruit. You are paying middle man prices at the market for the most part. The vendors I choose usually sell one product, meaning they are the direct farmer or just the neighbor with the better truck. Farm shares need to catch on here. But you can get a pipas for fifty cents and three Caribbean pastries cost $2. I guess it balances out.

I made a huge pot of tomato sauce (everyone has their own recipe for that) and every single ingredient came from the market. Two thirds was frozen and what was left was used on the eggplant parmesan. A simple stove top version. Basic but perfect. With good planning, I can make things stretch through the week. The sauce got me thinking… I may have to make my own pasta.


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