Cooking and eating through a new culture

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

Got Goat

Cheese, that is. I’m writing this because every other day Rafa asks if I wrote about the goat cheese we bought on Irazu. After the Irazu Challenge, we motored down the volcano stopping at roadside stands to pick up goodies for the week. In all honesty, if you can do this, it is cheaper and fresher.

Now I have ruminated (Get it! Ruminate!…sorry biology joke) about the cows and dairy, but what there is an amazing lack of sheep and goats. Lamb is pretty much non-existent in the markets and I would say there are more goats on the Caribbean side, but for the most part, you don’t see a lot around. So imagine my surprise when we stopped for some palmetto cheese, the woman recommended her goat cheese. Even Rafa was shocked and then immediately began to drool, since I have been known to rock out some seriously scrumptious goat cheese and spinach omelets. The woman offered a sample to both us and our eyes widen. It was ambrosial.

The farm I worked on in my youth had goats. They are silly creatures. Where as all the other animals on the farm had a very distinct purpose, the goats just seemed to wander around and eat everything. The does were nice and rather friendly but the buck, on the other hand, was a real dick. Since I was about 10, I was probably half of the size I am now and that buck was huge. We seriously stood eye to eye. I don’t know what set him off but he had it in for me. Everybody else thought it was funny to see hoof marks on my back, but that sucker was vicious. I came in early one morning and he was loose. It was a standoff equivalent to a Clint Eastwood movie. I can still hear the music whistling in my mind. Sure I could have backed out of the barn and waited for someone else to arrive but I had work to do, so I stood my ground. We eye balled each other for what seemed like eternity until he finally pawed the ground and charged. Now I mark this as a very formative period in my limited existence. Normally, a quiet, submissive child…that day, I wasn’t putting up with any shit. Staring down a charging billy-goat, horns and all, I grabbed the closest thing: a big flat manure shovel and broadsided that mean ass goat on the side of his head. Now I am not a proponent of animal cruelty by any means, but farm work is not rainbows and daisy chains either. Just because you are the one with opposable thumbs doesn’t mean you won’t get fucked with. The gong of shovel to horns reverberated through the barn and everything went still. I was small but months of shoveling shit gave me a good swing, but it honestly did nothing to him other than stop him in his tracks. He looked at me, turned away and never bothered me again.

I have eaten goat…drunk on Ouzo at the Hellenic Festival…and it wasn’t bad. Widely eaten all over the globe, but less so in the North America, it is leaner than chicken and has more protein than beef. I have never cooked goat (also known as cabrito or chevon), …yet, but I have read there is a fatty membrane known as caul around the meat that needs a good sharp knife to trim away and that since it is so lean, it should be braised or cooked with a liquid. Our plan is to eventually move to the Caribbean side. Rafa and I toyed with the idea of having some critters for consumption and goats are good for meat and cheese. Granted, Rafa has a more romantic notion of farming than I do…this coming from the man who was traumatized by the run over, half dead possum in the road, “I’m gonna have NIGHTMARES!” I see a lot of the rough stuff handled by yours truly. I have a friend stateside who is doing the very thing I wish to do down here and I admire her drive for the family, farm, sustainable life. We’re getting there.

We did buy a container of herbed goat cheese. If you want to find her, make your way up Irazu route 219, not too far. Certainly before San Juan de Chicua. She is on a bend along side some other produce farmers. I can’t say there is any other marker or feature to guide you, but it is worth the trek.

As for the goats on the farm…they were sold to a Greek family. Karma is a kabab.


Cocoricó, Cahuita

Playa Blanca

Ahhh, Cahuita.

The whole Caribbean actually. It’s lovely. Sure it has elements of the wild, wild, west; dirt roads, drugs, roosters waking you up in the wee hours of the morning….but it also has blissful stretches of beach, animals that fall right of National Geographic, and that sultry, tropical sun that lulls all your cares away. There isn’t much to the place: a muddy road through the center of town with more empty places than full but in reality it has what you need and that’s all.

Rafa and I try to make the trek over the mountains to the beach whenever we can and like most things we do, we squeeze in as much adventure as possible. We’ve explored the gringo haven of Puerto Viejo, the soft sand beaches of Cocles, all the way down to the idyllic Mazanillo. Most evenings we just hang out at the cabinas, with some wine and a simple meal but there has been a couple of times where we had an exhausting day in the sun and a meal out sounded much more satisfactory. On these occasions, we normally find ourself at Cocoricó. There are a couple of reasons for this….there’s not that much to choose from and I am seriously addicted to their Pasta Carabina.

To say pasta is a staple in my diet is an understatement. I have been fed pasta since before I could hold a fork. Anyone who doesn’t eat pasta has something seriously wrong with them, and yes, the Atkins diet is the work of the devil. As the story goes, a traveling Italian girl found herself in this tiny little town and fell in love with a local Tico (Can you imagine that?!) and after bouncing around together for a bit, they came back and opened Cocoricó. Given the limitations of what can be imported to the far reaches of Costa Rica,  Cocoricó has a fine menu, balanced between local and Italian cuisine. Normally I do not order out what I could easily fix at home, but the cabinas are not as stocked as my kitchen and pasta is comfort food…and it soaks up the wine too. As extensive as the menu is, I have yet to waver from my favorite. Pasta Carabina is a light coconut sauce with shrimp over spaghetti. It’s not a curry nor is it Thai. For me, it is the perfect blend of Tico and Italian and a perfect meal to close out a full day in the tropics. Rafa hasn’t found his go-to dish but he has experimented more with the menu than me and hasn’t been disappointed. It seems they do a brisk pizza business judging by the take out orders I saw flying out of there, but it may have to do more with a gringo’s bad case of the munchies than anything else.

Cocoricó is located on the main drag and easy to find. It has an open air, quirky vibe to the place. The widescreen TV at one end of the business has a constant cycle of movies and music to enjoy your 2 for 1 happy hour cocktails (I stick with wine, thank you) , not to mention a few comfy couches to lounge on too. You better like Michael Jackson, Madonna and Bob Marley. Just say’in.

Love Your Mother

Yesterday was Día de la Madre, Feast of the Assumption, aka Mother’s Day here and in honor of the Big Mother, here’s a little creature feature.

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Now, this is what I only could capture with my limited camera skills. I have seen so much more. I am consuming Costa Rica! I cannot get enough of the beauty that is here.

My last paying gig was a job many considered to the best in the world. Well, it was not. Not the job itself, but the people who ran the agency. It no longer became a passion, but a punishment inflected by the most heinous individuals imaginable. The mission I signed up for warped into a huge back-biting, ego trip. Not cool. But I did meet some amazing people, learn incredible things and get up close and personal with animals most only dream of. Funny thing was, I thought I was lucky then. Boy, was I wrong. In the short time here, skipping around this amazing country as much as I can, I have done more for the benefit of species survival than my whole 15 year career as a conservation solider. There is always more to be done and I am eager to move forward.

So to everyone out there,  be a conscious consumer and LOVE YOUR MOTHER!


Words of Wisdom

I somehow believed I should write a lot but it has come to my attention that
it is the little things that mean the most.

Case in point: Never, and I mean never, leave candy in your purse or bag when
you live in a tropical environment. A common practice for many from the North.
Having a quick hard candy to pop in when you have a sore throat or hick-ups is
always handy, especially when you get pulled over by the cops (not that I ever
needed to do that). But lets just say, after a few dinners out you accumulate a
couple of peppermints, for just such an emergency, and go about your usual
business; in and out of hot cars, sitting out enjoying a picnic in the sun,
marching around the city, etc. Do you have any idea what happens to those little
sweets in this climate? They turn into melted sugar turds or more appropriately,
ant crack.

Now I like to rotate between three bags, depending on where I’m going and of
course, what I’m wearing. It’s not unusual for Ticas to match everything,
from clothes to shoes, nail polish (fingers AND toes) to eyeshadow. I’m not
that extreme, so allow me my bag exchange.

So yes, that was me. The crazy Gringa freaking out in the middle of San Pedro
because I just realized that creeping feeling I had for the past fifteen minutes
while walking to Automercado was not my imagination but all the fucking ants
pouring out of my bag on to ME! I was flailing around like I had seizures but
instead of foam spewing from my mouth, it was my vast reservoir of profanity.
Little old ladies were crossing themselves thinking I was possessed and many,
many Ticos would go home and Google the word “motherfucker”. It was that

Sorry. There are no pictures. Unless there is something posted on Youtube.
I’m not sure…but I wouldn’t be surprised.

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