SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis –

2 Feb

It has been a couple weeks since I posted anything (for reasons which wouldn’t be interesting enough to explain). But since it’s been that long, here’s the last post, the new post and the new look of future posts. (New look meaning that I will not be boring you with the information I have been repeating on all my past posts, such as “this is a continuation blah blah blah & all the chapter titles and #’s.)

chapter 25 continued

Uh oh… another shopping story just occurred that needs to be included here along with a related tamale cooking story.

So now, let’s talk about holiday shopping for food.  In the U.S. the big holidays have special food items that are prepared traditionally, like turkey with all the trimmings at Christmas.

Can you imagine walking into your local market and not finding some of the ingredients and then being told that they are nowhere to be found in any of the stores in your city?

That is exactly what happened today, 12/22/2008.  In all of Latin America it is a really BIG tradition to make tamales at Christmas.

A friend of mine said she always makes tamales for her family at Christmas, of course, and since I would like for her to make a couple for me to enjoy I offered to purchase the ingredients.  One of the ingredients is meat.  Apparently the type of meat is the cook’s choice and her choice is pork.

Costa Rica is a country where pork is almost a staple of the diet (for those who can afford to buy meat of any kind).   And I happen to prefer pork over beef so I always have some in the freezer.  But I didn’t have exactly what she wanted and also her recipe called for a type of oil made from pork fat.  It’s liquid and comes in a bottle like many other cooking oils.

Actually, I didn’t have any of the ingredients she wanted since about the only thing I know how to do is BBQ.

So off to Santa Cruz we went, which now I can happily say is only a half hour away because what was a one hour drive on a road that would destroy a Hummer is now a drive on a nice smooth ready for asphalt surface.

There are no markets in Playa Junquillal other than the one little store that is best described as one half of a 7-11 that carries no fresh meat and a few wilted fruits and vegetables in addition to the 7-11 type items.  So Santa Cruz, with a population of maybe twenty thousand people, is where I do most of my grocery shopping.  I have already described the grocery stores in C.R., which would make a gourmet quickly exit the country, but being the simple cook/eater that I am I’m almost content.  I would be more content if I could get fresh produce but without refrigerated transportation on slow roads and a system that guarantees at least four day old produce I put up with the wilted lettuce, floppy carrots, way over or under ripe fruits and other veggies, etc.   Even the little farmers market that occurs in Sta. Cruz on Saturday’s can’t guarantee fresh picked produce.  The local tropical fruits are wonderful however at the farmers market.

  • Unless you opt to reside in S.J. (yuck) or Cartago, where much of the produce is grown, expect to be disappointed regularly.

Anyway, back to the story, we had no problem finding everything she wanted… except the pork and the special oil that’s made from pork fat.  You can imagine my disbelief at not finding those holiday staples!

As the day wore on and my patience began to wear thin from going to virtually all the normal markets and most of the little specialty meat markets we ended up going back to my place with everything except the pork and the oil.

I absolutely could not believe it!  That would be like looking for a turkey before Thanksgiving and not being able to find one or the stuffing makings in any store.

But this is an interesting country with interesting surprises.

We got back to my house and I suggested she ask Nidia if she had any ideas or knew of someplace we could complete the grocery list.  Nidia says “yes, my mother-in-law, who only lives about two kilometers away (Paraiso), sells pork”.  She got in the car with us and directed me to her mother-in-laws house and now we have all the ingredients.

And I have a new source for really good fresh pork!  (And a new respect for tamales.)

Actually, the real respect goes to the tamale maker.  You’ll read why next.


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