Cooking and eating through a new culture

I dairy you

I never understood the whole cow motif trend. Having worked on farms and with cows, it was unfathomable that people though they lived some idyllic life munching grass and being fondled by sweet-natured farmers. Most would be horrified to see how a commerical cow truly lives and to have people decorate their kitchens with happy Holsteins makes me wonder if they wouldn’t also adorn their walls with similar images of  orphans and homeless people. My years of experience with cows made me pity their very existence. That is, until I came here.
I had stopped drinking milk well before highschool. Like most self-conscious, image hating adolescent girls in the 80’s, I wanted to cut calories. And I never really went back. A few months dating a guy that was lactose intolerant, I got into soy (if you read this: I swear, regardless of what you may believe, I never “poisoned” you with milk).  But other than some half and half for my coffee and occasional hankerings for yogurt, dairy was off the radar.
Sure there was ice cream and cheese and as much as I would have liked to consume them on a daily biases, they were more for special times…of the month.
I remember standing in front of the dairy case with Rafa frantically looking for half and half. I knew that leche was milk but I where was leche medio y medio? Looks like I would be SOL. It went from whole milk to heavy cream. So whole milk it is. Dos Pinos milk, that is. There are other smaller dairy/cheese companies in the grocery stores such as Monteverde and Coronado but Dos Pinos is ubiquitous. Here’s the thing, or at least what I have been told: Costa Rica is so small that farms couldn’t get mega big, like in the US. So instead, small farms sell their milk to Dos Pinos who in turn packages and sells it. They hold 85% of the market of commercial milk in Costa Rica and have the biggest cheese plant in Central America…and it’s a Co-op! How cool is that?!
Dos Pinos Corporate Mission:
“To manufacture and market, ethically and professionally, products with high nutritional value for our current and potential consumers, maintaining the highest quality and level of service provided by employees committed to our values and the use of the best technology available.”
Still, I had a little concern. I mean, what if this milk Co-op went all China, and started mixing crazy shit in their milk. So we did a little exploring. And let me tell you something: dairy cows in Costa Rica have it MADE. It seems volcanos have wonderful rich soil, which in turn makes wonderful pasture land. Steep, but lovely. This was taken from the edge of cow field:

Mimosas and Moos

Go into the surrounding countryside and cows are everywhere in thick green pastures with the most stunning views of the valley. Look a little harder and you will see the small neat farms and roadside stands selling fresh palmito. Palmito is  a softball sized wad of string cheese made from fresh from cow’s milk, pulled and spun to create a delicate, lightly flavored cheese reminiscent of mozzarella. A trip up volcano Irazu weaved through amazing pasture land and fat, happy cows. Just before the park entrance was a small trailer that sold the most amazing fried cheese empanadas. Empanadas that, to this day, I still crave. Ticos love dairy. It may not be as refined as the Europeans, but cheese is everywhere. Cream too. But here’s the thing: it’s not sweet cream. It’s very common to have a big dollop of unsweetened cream with your gallo pinto. It has taken me awhile to get use to it, but I do like it. The same with  Turrialba cheese. It’s a white, semi soft “squeaky” cheese (it squeaks when you bite into it)  often served with breakfast. Yogurt is sold in the liquid form rather than cups and you can get awesome flavors like guanabana and, if you hunt hard enough blueberry!
Rafa works long hours and the days can drag. Yes, I should be banging out more posts but sometimes, the inspiration is just not there and I will succumb to ennui.  Strangely, at times like these, Rafa will sneak out early and come home with a pint of ice cream.

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3 thoughts on “I dairy you

  1. Haley Cooney on said:

    When the day is dragging on give me a call! I always have cheese ;)…

    PS. Swear I’m not stocking you – just happend on your blog! how crazy is that?

  2. Carol Wengrowich on said:

    Looking for cream that will whip for my cheesecakes. Need some right away for a birthday cheesecake for tomorrow. Those Dso Pinos cartons of so called whipping cream don’t whip. Can you help me please?

    • Where are you located? Other than Dos Pinos, you may find whole cream in some of the organic shops or an Automercado. The best Automercado is in Escazu and I have found alot there I needed in a pinch. Otherwise, I would have you driving up somr crazy mountains to get it from the source. Hope this helps! Good luck with the cheescakes!

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