Surviving Costa Rica – Eating

Surviving Costa Rica – Eating

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“Extremely trendy” translates to cuisine not normally available back in Ohio or Saskatchewan.

It’s time to discuss one of the most important aspects of living successfully in Costa Rica — eating. I will skip the basic mechanics of self-nourishment such as proper chewing and swallowing. Instead, we’ll deal exclusively with options for accessing food.

Some of the most popular approaches to eating here apply to visitors and residents alike. That includes visiting one of the many businesses that supply food served by colorful inhabitants known as saloneros (waiters), after which remuneration is required. These establishments are known as “restaurants” and come in a variety of styles, as do the waiters.

Choosing such a dining spot depends on personal preference. Local inhabitants are known to frequent “típico” restaurants featuring a piece of meat with rice and beans, a piece of chicken with rice and beans, a piece of fish with rice and beans, or just good ol’ rice and beans. These dishes are called casados and satisfy 99.44 percent of national nutritional requirements. Servers tend to be either grandmotherly types who treat you like a long-lost friend, or guys who would clearly rather be playing fútbol with their buddies.

Here in the Greater Tamarindo Metroplex, you’ll find varied species of restaurants. “Extremely trendy” translates to cuisine not normally available back in Ohio or Saskatchewan. It’s served by attractive young people with numerous pierced body parts and a lengthy list of reasons for your food being late. House specialties usually include chilled red wine.

Pizza enthusiasts will not be disappointed, with more than 23 places to enjoy their favorite ovoid delicacy. Popular local topping selections include pepperoni, mushroom, yucca, iguana and cotton.

Fly-by-night restaurants — constantly fluctuating in number — feature whatever is available in local supermarkets, which is where the chef runs to after receiving your order.

Rounding out the array of restaurant choices are the Italian, Chinese, Belgian, Thai, Peruvian, Argentinian, Lithuanian, Sri Lankan and more variations on an ethnic theme.

Another popular form of self-nourishment involves the actual cooking of food by the actual eater. There’s a totally different set of requirements, starting with the acquisition of raw materials needed for meal composition. By far, the most difficult and hazardous methods entail growing or hunting your own. Procuring nourishment agriculturally — say, harvesting a garden or a melon patch — could prove fatal. Most plants take several months to mature, while the average food consumer must eat at least twice a day (four times if you’re American) to maintain life as we know it. Daily hunting of local fauna such as monkeys or horses can supply some immediate nutrition, but the severe lack of necessary vitamins can have unpleasant outcomes such as scurvy, rickets or the fearsomely trendy dengue fever.

A much more readily accessible food source is your nearest supermercado. Knowledge of the Italian language is helpful but not necessary. Tamarindo shoppers are always assured of a staggering selection of red wines (unchilled), a vast variety of olive oil (including the stuff from — shudder — Turkey), a plethora of prosciutto and a cornucopia of colorful pastas. As more and more extranjeros make the permanent move to Costa Rica, supermercados have been slowly adapting to North American requirements such as lettuce, peanut butter, Pop Tarts and Budweiser.

Once your food has been procured, you can proceed to cook it, eat it, and always clean up afterwards. These steps and many more will be covered in our next chapter: Just Desserts.