I decided to try cooking lunch for the family today. Lunch is the big meal, rather than dinner. I wanted to cook up some typical Southern cuisine for them. It was a risky proposition for several reasons. These people take food very seriously; if I screwed it up, I would lose face and would likely never be trusted in the kitchen again. Shopping and cooking are rather difficult when you don't know the names of all the ingredients you're looking for. And not all the ingredients I'm used to are available.
After breakfast, I took the bus down to the Hipermas, Costa Rica's answer to Wal*Mart (in fact, it is now owned by the Wally family). Based on what I could find, I came up with the following menu:
The chicken was fine, but unremarkable because fried chicken is fairly common here. They seemed to like the cornbread. Marta admitted later that she'd told her mother, "Tony's going to try to make bread from cornmeal. I don't think it'll work." She asked for the recipe, and was intrigued by the use of cracklin' (called "chicharrón" here, it's a common bar snack) in bread. The real surprise was the fried green tomatoes. These were a novelty. Everyone gave me strange looks when they saw me dipping slices of tomato in egg and then breading them. But they ate them!
I made too much food, forgetting that 6 chicken leg quarters feeds 6 Americans, but 12 Ticos. And I also didn't think about the fact that some of the family (the men) wouldn't be adventurous enough to risk their main meal being cooked by a gringo. They ate ahead of time. So there are a lot of leftovers that will probably go to waste unless I eat them myself. They all exclaimed "Que rico!" at the meal (a polite compliment), but I don't think they'd choose to eat it again.
Still, I'm glad I got the chance to cook for them. I enjoyed sharing a little of my culture. And it was nice to spend an afternoon thinking of home.
My cornbread (there's no Costa Rican equivalent, so they call it "Pan de Tony") is officially a hit. It got the ultimate compliment: we had it again for coffee in the afternoon and nearly finished it off. I say "nearly" because nothing is ever completely finished here. I don't know if this is a Costa Rican habit or if it's limited to this household, but there are little baggies containing morsels of past meals everywhere, filling the fridge and covering the counter. Anyway, Marta and her niece both asked how to make the cornbread, and said it was great with coffee. The kids got a kick out of hunting for the bits of pork. When they bit into one, they would get excited and shout "Pura carne!"
I should've known that here, where there is a panadería on every corner, any type of bread would be appreciated.
Labels: costa rica