For a long time, I’ve associated this weekend’s country, Costa Rica, with Jurassic Park. In the nineties, when the movie was coming out, my brother bought a copy of the novel, and being the nosy little sister that I was, I started reading it. The story begins with a young family vacationing in Costa Rica, and while I don’t remember the specifics, I know I was too freaked out to read the rest of the book. I stayed home when my mom took my brother to see the movie, because I thought it would be “too scary.” To this day, I haven’t seen Jurassic Park, besides a few minutes here and there when I stumbled on it while flipping through TV channels. I guess I prefer my dinosaurs a little more friendly-looking, like this magnet Derek and I have on our fridge:
Of course, as a (relatively) reasonable adult, I’ve come to realize that Costa Rica is not a country teeming with killer reptiles. I knew it’s one of the most stable Latin American nations, and one of the most eco-friendly nations in the world. But I still had a lot to learn coming into this weekend.
To start our Costa Rican weekend, I prepared us the Costa Rican national dish, gallo pinto, which is typically served as the morning meal. Gallo pinto, “spotted rooster”, is a dish of rice and beans (no rooster/chicken). Derek and I had ours with fried eggs, sweet plantains, and coffee. We didn’t have Salsa Lizano, a condiment well-loved by Ticos (that’s the colloquial term for Costa Ricans), but heard that Worcestershire sauce was similar, and happened to have a bottle of vegetarian Worcestershire, so I think our breakfast came somewhat close to authentic.
For an overview on Costa Rica, we turned to the ever-reliable Geography Now.
For lunch, Derek made us Costa Rican-style tacos, substituting a mock vegetarian beef for the shredded beef, and again, vegetarian Worcestershire sauce. We topped our tacos with shredded cabbage, diced fresh tomatoes, and a sauce that reminded us of Thousand Island dressing. Here’s a picture of my plate before I dug in:
In the afternoon, we went with another one of our video standbys for globetrotting, Expoza Travel, for a tour of Costa Rica. We already had seen how lovely the natural landscapes of Costa Rica are, but this video showed us even more beautiful points of interest.
While zip lining and jungle safaris aren’t readily available to us in Cambridge, Derek and I did take advantage of the nice weather and went outside for a walk. In the late afternoon, I prepared dinner, arroz con palmitos, or rice with hearts of palm. It wasn’t until after I had bought all the ingredients that I realized the version of the recipe I had chosen was much simpler than others on the Internet, so I’m skeptical of how traditional it is, but it was still a tasty dish, in a comfort food kind of way.
After dinner, we watched the 2004 film Caribe, Costa Rica’s first ever submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film (it was not selected as a nominee). The story deals with love and betrayal between its main characters, as well as conflict between a big American oil company and a Costa Rican village. There aren’t English subtitles in the below trailer, but even if you don’t understand Spanish, you can probably tell that this movie often gets overly dramatic.
On Sunday we had leftover gallo pinto for breakfast, and more fried egg, plantains, and coffee. After doing some chores for the week ahead, we watched an 11-part series on a Blue Zone (regions in the world where people live the longest) in Costa Rica, Nicoya. The videos credit a number of factors for the longevity of these Ticos, such as diet (particularly beans and corn tortillas), strong social ties, and religion. You can watch the first video in the series here. At three to four minutes each, the videos are easy to watch in succession.
Derek already had a fascination with Blue Zones, so after he was eager to start making lunch, using ingredients credited for the longevity of the people of Nicoya. He prepared casado (literally “married man”), a meal of rice and beans served side by side, along with salad, fried egg, queso fresco (a white cheese), and corn tortilla. The meal also often has some kind of meat, like a pork chop, and plantains, but we skipped those, since we had plenty for our plates already. Derek served the casado on banana leaves, for a little more flair.
In learning about Costa Rica this weekend, we came across the expression pura vida (“pure life”) a lot. It’s used in various ways: in greeting, saying goodbye, answering “How are you?” and more. Pura vida also signifies a laid-back lifestyle, of taking things easy and appreciating what you have. So we may not have done much with our sunny Sunday afternoon, but I think taking the time to relax was in keeping with this Tico way of life.
We ate more tacos for dinner. While I’m glad we weren’t eating rice and beans for the third meal straight, I have to say that Costa Rica has definitely been one of the easier globetrotting countries when it comes to finding vegetarian-friendly dishes.
Globetrotting to a tranquil and beautiful place like Costa Rica seems like a perfect way to welcome the start of summer. Instead of thinking about reptiles, dinosaurs and Jurassic Park, I’ll have better things to think about when the country comes to mind: pristine beaches, comforting food, warm people, and enjoying life. Gracias por este fin de semana, Costa Rica. Pura vida!