I’ve taken you on a visual tour of Arenal, and now I’ll guide you through a little Costa Rican food. We have, above, a typical scene of fruits and veggies hanging from a shop wall (these I found in the tiny town of Tilaran). I love the colors in Costa Rica, everything painted upbeat and bright.
On Saturday morning, a small produce market opens up along the sidewalk near the central church.
Across the street, little stalls offer snacks and drinks beside the bus station. These stalls border a tiny indoor market, not more than a dozen shops beneath a metal roof in a dim square enclosed by thick walls. In the center is a counter with stools and a man selling lunchâ€”casados y empanadas y bebidas.
I order the casado con pollo en salsa, a huge plate of food with rice and red beans, a tangy slaw of thinly sliced cabbage and carrot, shredded chicken in a light red pepper sauce and ground beef with tiny cubes of squash. Hands down, one of my favorite meals in Costa Rica, washed down with one of the best glasses of fresh pineapple juice I’ve ever had anywhere.
Most of the Costa Rican food I sample is not intrinsically spicy, though no local meal is complete without chileraâ€”hot pickled chiles, onions and other vegetables, kept on restaurant tables as salt and pepper are back home. It’s addictive (I’ve always had a thing for anything pickled). I will have to make it.
One day, I sit on the front porch with my niece and her host dad when a truck rumbles down the hill. It’s stuffed with fruits and vegetables, and neighbors quickly gather with money in hand.
My niece says the roving grocer comes by every day or two or three, as does a wandering man who sells pastries from boxes stacked in a cart. What a grand idea! Bring the groceries to me!
I await the day we have such perks at home.