Clean in Costa Rica
One gringo's journey to clean eating in Costa Rica.
Eating "clean" while traveling can sometimes be a challenge. Particularly, if you're not familiar with your surroundings and perhaps don't have a full grasp of the local langauge. My recent trip was NOT one of these instances.
I had the privilege of traveling to Costa Rica with my friend Carlos. His family operates a pineapple and yuca farm in Pital, Alajuela. A former dairy farm, the land is now used by the Viquez family to grow their own crops for sale, and sometimes rent out to others to grow pineapple and yuca. We had a wonderful tour of the property (from Carlos' dad) and the chance to sample the local flavors. Carlos' father also prepared a pig for our afternoon meal. The pig was purchased from a local pig farmer. What makes this meal unique (for us Americans who stay relatively distant from our food source) is that all of this food was prepared right there and then. The pig was slaughtered, dressed and cooked (this day we had chicharrónes and chops, but the whole animal will be used in soups and other dishes, as it is customary to respect the entire animal). The pineapple and yuca came straight from the ground; the yuca boiled. The only spices used were oregano and garlic, also plucked fresh. We also enjoyed Nance and Pejibayes (peach palm). And the chefs? The very hands that grew the food. Talk about fresh and so clean (clean)! Maybe a cerveza, too (also local :) ).
This is about as close to "eating the land" as you can get.
The next day, a sun-prepared group of 7 (3 gringos, Carlos, and 3 of his childhood friends - Rodolfo, Berrocal and Meneo) went to Jaco to set out on a day-long deep-sea fishing adventure. We brought in 2 sailfish (which were returned to the water) and 4 tuna (which were not). We also saw another boat wrestle a marlin to it's deck, not to mention a dozen rays jumping and, literally, hundreds of bottle-nosed dolphins swimming, jumping, twirling and playing in the Pacific.
Needless to say, that tuna provided the freshest sushi I've ever had. The tuna were quickly chilled on ice, fileted and served as sushi and ceviche, prepared and eaten right there on the boat. Eating (other) sushi may have been forever ruined for me. We ate the rest of the tuna that evening and the next day, with a little left for Rodolfo to enjoy with his family.
There were also shark's teeth, crocodiles, frogs, iguanas, 80s music, a hunt for boa constrictors, delicious coffee, "the Stone Bar", climibing trees... and Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the return flight.
The takeaway? I have an even better appreciation for eating (truly) locally-sourced foods and experiencing how fresh ingredients can be. Oh... and you should always travel with friends who know the region. Not only for the assistance in language barrier, but to have a true understanding of the people and traditions. I met lots of wonderful people that I hope to see again soon (and not just on Facebook).
Did I mention the Costa Rican coffee? Wow.