La Comida–Part II

Each “cheat day” I have enjoyed in 2016 has outdone the previous one. This is largely, because I have spent each one in Costa Rica. In a previous post, I described and listed the healthier food options in this country, but since writing that one, I gained expertise regarding the more indulgent food options here. Turns out, Costa Rica has some awesome cheap food that is available on nearly every street corner of every town with a Catholic church and Futbol/Soccer field. It is also home to sauces that you just do not find in the USA. As a sequel to the previous post, “La Comida,” here is a list of the less healthy Costa Rican foods I have particularly enjoyed.

Salsa Lizano

Salsa Lizano

1.  Salsa Lizano—Words fail to aptly describe this wonderfully smooth, all-purpose savory sauce. Salsa Lizano is the unofficial national sauce of Costa Rica and goes perfectly with pretty much everything other than ice cream and cereal. It is to A1 what Jamie Foxx is to Kevin Hart—one is far more complete. It has a smooth tangy taste that remains the same throughout each bite (or sip:-)). The active ingredient in Gallo Pinto (see previous, “La Comida”), it makes or breaks numerous meals that would otherwise be unmemorable.

I am not the only one holding this sacred sauce in high regard. Last fall, Katy  Perry toured through Costa Rica and tweeted about her discovery of Salsa Lizano (see below).

Katy_Perry-salsa_Lizano-Twitter_ELFIMA20151018_0001_16

Katy’s tweet, which I whole-heartedly agree with.

I gave a few people I really like the gift of Salsa Lizano for Christmas. I expect them to thank me for years to come.

2.  Heladerias—Consistent with other open air establishments, Costa Rica has door-less ice cream shops everywhere. The cost of living here is similar to that of the USA, but is lower when it comes to ice cream. The standard menu of desserts at places such as the one pictured below usually includes items, which would require 30 minutes of preparation and $10 at similar places in the USA. On Saturday, I got a sundae cone with three different ice cream flavors, hot fudge, sprinkles, and pirouette rolled wafers all in a large cone for $2.50. I’m going back next weekend. Pura effing Vida!

Heladeria

3.  Rumbas—The corn-tortilla chip to end all other types of chips. Previous to discovering these, I held that all tortilla chips were better served with dip. Ignorantly, I thought all of planet Earth’s tortilla chips were merely conduits through which dip is eaten. Rumbas are sufficient by themselves and are merely supplemented with dip. Dip plays second fiddle when paired with these. They have perfectly balanced, not-too-salty taste. I look for excuses to pair them with all other foods. Makers and distributors of Rumba chips are doing the world and their yearly earnings a disservice by not expanding globally. Rumbas!

Rumbas

The ones on the upper shelf. All others are playing for second.

4.  Panaderias–User-friendly bakeries paired with mini-food markets are as prevalent in Costa Rica as breathtaking vistas. What’s more, most of these places make their pastries and baked goods daily. Whether you want a savory empanada or a sweet, chocolate-filled treat, you can find it nearby at a local panaderia.

La Panaderia

Just a fraction of what Panaderias offer–and you can see my reflection.

In closing, I am far more satisfied with my understanding of this place after having gained knowledge of the above. When I visit here in the future, I am sure to plan my cheat days around indulging in these foods.

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Home and Back

Having myself a happy holidays and taking care of other business kept me from being able to post as much as I wanted to at the end of 2015.

I went home for Christmas and New Year’s and returned to Costa Rica in January. Said trip marked my longest continuous time spent abroad by far. I have now been through both culture shock and the first part of reverse-culture shock and strongly prefer the latter. It was awesome to be home!

Simply put, my time at home was one of the best vacations I have ever had, which is largely due spending the previous four months in a foreign country. My view of everything at home was shaded by the rose colored glasses that come with being in the honeymoon phase of reverse-culture shock. Objectively, my hometown is a serene, idyllic and coastal destination, so it is an appealing place under the majority of circumstances. This time, however, I noticed certain aspects about it that I may not have otherwise seen had I not been under the influence of reverse-culture shock.

First, my attention was unexpectedly drawn to the continuous sidewalks. The differences in the sidewalks in Costa Rica and in the USA are an illustration of the differences in infrastructure.

More specifically, areas of urban and suburban Costa Rica may have stretches of well-maintained sidewalks that suddenly end and inexplicably run into sudden grass or mud roadside shoulders. This is sometimes the case at the borders of towns or municipalities in the USA, but these inconsistent sides of roads and within the middle of towns in Costa Rica. I did not notice this before coming here and it has never ruined my day, I appreciate infrastructure now like I did not before.

Second, I was overwhelmed by the amount of choices I had at home. The United States is a land of options. I first noticed this at the grocery store. I caught myself marveling at the vast selection of eggs in my hometown store that is not as plentiful in the higher end stores in Costa Rica. It was a privilege to have the option of buying pourable organic, onion-flavored egg whites or a normal old dozen.

Further, there are exponentially more TV channels on standard cable in the USA than in Costa Rica. Consequently, I found it more difficult to pick a channel and watched astronomically more TV while home than during my longest times on the couch when I last lived in the United States.

The United States is the land of opportunity, which is evident on a micro- sense and particularly in the dairy section of the grocery store. I suspect that the above would have gone unnoticed had I not been affected by the previous months I spent away from it.

Regardless of reverse culture shock’s effect on the enjoyment of my holiday trip, I thoroughly enjoyed my friends and family. I am fortunate to have been born into a family of solid people who associate with other solid people. Most of the legwork I had to do to surround myself with the right people was done for me when I was born. This is now more evident to me than ever. Petty disagreements and competitive-driven tussles that may have clouded my relationships in the past fell by the wayside after I had a few months away. It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but absence also allows relationships to grow truer.

Finishing the previous point, I have resolved to be better in 2016, as I am sure a number of you have. My shareable resolutions include:

  1. Waking up before 6:00 a.m. on 250 mornings in 2016.
  2. Reading 24 books–I am not the type to try or boast about reading a book a day and think I can gain the proper amount of comprehension by sticking to two per month.
  3. Writing and posting 2 blog posts per month–I will make it my sub-resolution to write something one of you have felt, but could not articulate in a way that you could use to your benefit. Hopefully, as above, my absence has made you fonder.

Back soon. Pura Vida!

Jason Hodges-Ciudad Neily, Costa Rica-Cataratas 1