La Comida Mas Fresca
(Crabs scuttle in the sand)
Editors Note: Maybe it’s not so bad going back to school. As a teacher that is. ES friend jakeSG teaches DC youth from September to June and then takes a rock star trip in the summer. I’d KILL for a summer vaca. Regardless, jakeSG went back to Costa Rica this year (here’s his take on last year) to lead teens through the hills and farms and lakes of this gorgeous land. You can see the rest of his beautiful pics here and below jakeSG details his fresh from the farm meal.
I eat well in Costa Rica, but nothing prepared me for the cooking of Ana Cerdas Rodriguez. The thirty-five year old mother of three spends days jotting down recipes in a handwritten cookbook, some of which she learns from the occasional cooking show on one of the three channels the family gets in Guadalupe de Rivas. Most of the food I get in these homes is terrific, but they all lack the presentation that Anaisa labors to achieve.
She outdoes even the nicest Tico restaurant I’ve been to, framing her gallo pinto (beans and rice for breakfast) in a glass to achieve that perfect shape. Her maduros (slowly sauteed green bananas) are delicate and sweet, never burned.
The Fresh Meal took place on Dia de la Madre, a day in which she shouldn’t have been cooking, but she still intended to show us what it meant to use what you have around. I’ve been reading a lot about food lately (Michael Pollan and Russ Parsons) and the underlying, constant theme is: fresh food is better. Period.
The trout was bred by Miguel in his man-made backyard pond; there are over 30 fish swimming there. The twins went about to take out 13 of the biggest fish (I succeeded in catching one puny one), although I did manage to stay dry — something that can’t be said for a cousin of theirs who got a much closer look after slipping on a wet rock.
Immediately, the fish were scaled in the sink of the Rancho (an outdoor patio with wood heated stove, sink and even electricity). Miguel took out the eyeballs, and Ana breaded them in cornmeal.
Within 15 minutes of catching, the fish were in the frying pan, sizzling and smelling delicious. The meal was augmented by rice (of course), and an incredible picadillo made from Papaya plucked from a tree not 20 feet from where we ate.
Picadillo is generally made with veggies in Costa Rica, namely the Chayote, and is sweet after mixed in the pan with achote and other spices. To have a fruit based picadillo was something special. The meal was topped off with olive oil with garlic and spices, pickled veggies made by Ana, and of course a juice made from the mandarins in the tree behind the house.
Desert was a 5 layer jello dish. That’s right. 5 layers.
Everything we ate was amazing. This meal makes me want to encourage everyone to go live on a farm for a week at least once in your life. There is something truly inspiring about eating what’s right in front of you. It’s also really damn delicious. I can’t wait to try the fig jam she sent me home with.