Posts Tagged ‘food’

If you had asked me 4 years ago if I ever planned on visiting Latin America, I would have responded with an emphatic no. Maybe it was all of the nature shows called “World’s Most Terrifying Insects” putting 8 of the top 10 somewhere in Latin America, or the stories (read: TV and Movie plot lines) about rampant kidnappings in South America, the whole thing was unappealing.

“Don’t mind me, I’m just crawling casually into your nightmares”

If you had asked me 2 and a half years ago if I would ever go here, after a dejected sigh that can only come from months of underemployment and job seeking, I would’ve said: “I don’t know…..for work I guess.”

So then when I was actually asked to go here for work almost 2 years ago, it was with subdued reluctance that I decided (conditionally) to come down here.

“So what convinced you to come down here? Was it the money?….yeah it was the money wasn’t it.”

Typically, I am reluctant but willing to do a lot of new stuff. I am fully aware that for the most part, I always enjoy new things. Despite that knowledge, I almost invariably need that extra push to try something. This “push” sometimes can be as small as a simple question asking me to try or do something, to more complex incentives.

The myriad of different experiences I have had in the last two years has taught me that one’s openness to new and/or uncomfortable situations doesn’t only reflect what activities they engage in, but defines who they are and in some ways, what they are capable of.

Turns out I am really good at riding apathetic cows

There is no right or wrong way to experience life, and as always, either extreme is usually not the best choice. Someone who lives a simple life who never experiences anything new is missing out just as much as someone who never stops chasing the world is missing the beauty of slowing down to focus on a few things.

Everyone has their own balance. That said, most people tend to be heavy on the safe side of the spectrum, and could do with a little branching out.

There are people I have met that view my life as a toe-in-the-water version of international travel. Conversely, I have met others who revere the very same experiences in a manner that would make you think I was bushwhacking jungles on Pandora. It is all a matter of perspective.

Pictured: Voracious terrastrial testudine with a reinforced plastron dining on a helpless meal

As you know by now, Nicaragua is crazy. Living here has been the coolest, weirdest and most rewarding time in my whole life. There is no single piece of advice I can give to someone that I will stress harder than to go learn another language. I don’t mean learn Spanish or German in a classroom. I am talking about living in a country, surrounded only by people who speak that language. Use a class to prepare, but then just leave it at that. Language is so much more than just a translation of words and sounds; it is a complete projection of who you are, what you are thinking and is framed within the cultural context of where you come from.

When you become fluent not only in the language but the culture of another place, it feels as if you have earned a second life. You can talk and genuinely be yourself yet sound and look absolutely nothing like you do in your original language and culture.

“ehhh ‘oo iz dis Sam joo spek of? Me llamo SannFrancisco Cantorrrr….soy de Nicaragua”

As I come up on two years here, I like to think of the experience to be similar to me trying Sopa de Juevos de Toro (Bull testicle soup). It took me a while to really give it a try. After I did I realized how delicious it is. And even after all this time there are still some lumpy parts with odd texture that you never fully get used to.

What the heck is this?…..

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Go get a pineapple. Right now. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Ok. So this part is easy, cut up the pineapple into some slices and put it in a bowl. Mash it up a little, but don’t get crazy now. Ok. Now put your semi-mashed up pineapple bowl in the freezer.

 

 

Here’s the hard part.

Wait 6-8 hours for it to freeze completely.

6 hours?!

Depending on the power of your freezer, you might need less time. Our freezer in Nicaragua sucks so I like to let it sit overnight.

Ok, now it should look like this.

Helado de Pina…puro magico

Take a knife and stab at that bad boy a bit until you can cut off a piece of it like you would a pie. Put it in a mug or some other reasonable container and enjoy.

Mmmmmmm

This has become my absolute favorite dessert. Something about being frozen makes pineapples even better.

A word of warning. If the container is ceramic and you leave it out for more than a minute or so, the condensation on the bottom of the bowl will build up and freeze when you put it away. This small amount of water is enough to form an ice sheet on the bowl and make it slide around on the counter.

One night, after a fair amount of Rum and Cokes…..I went to get myself some of this fantastic tropical treat. I set the bowl down on the counter and walked two feet to grab a fork when I heard a loud smash. Fortunately I found the frozen sheet of ice laying next to the bowl, thereby relieving my brain of all kinds of crazy scenarios that I had envisioned such as me being drunk and putting the bowl half off of the counter, or Nicaraguan poltergeists playing tricks on me.

Shattered bowl…..shattered dreams

Luck happened to be on my side that fateful night, as the Helado de Pina, being the best dessert ever, was even able to stave off its own destruction by using the frozen strands of pineapple to hold the bowl together, thereby allowing me to eat more of it, and even save some for later.

The dessert lives to see another day…

I don’t always eat fruit that has been on the floor……but when I do…..it’s frozen pineapple.

 

 

This one seems kind of obvious for anyone who has ever even heard of a third world country, but it goes much deeper than that. In the last year I have gotten dysentary twice, salmonella once, and a whole host of smaller stuff in between. After a lengthy series of explanations about bacterial growth, insects, rotten fruit, and basic kitchen hygiene; the people who cook for us still do everything almost the same. This attitude towards implementing things new and not understood is pretty typical here. From leaving honey, sugar, cereal, milk, cookies and other snacks open to be swarmed with ants, to wiping chicken grease up with a rag and then using it to “dry” our dishes. Everything is said….nothing is heard.

After we all kept getting sick, we thought it was a good idea to get the cooks to start refrigerating the eggs. Basically you have to understand that to literally everyone in my town besides us, eggs are made by your chickens and promptly eaten within a day or two. So the idea that we need to put them in the refrigerator is really just wasting valuable gatorade space. So as time went on,  I would see more and more of the eggs in the refrigerator and rarely on the refrigerator side table. Until one day I saw the two cartons of eggs back on the table. I queried one of our cooks as to why they were there and I was met with: “Look, there isn’t very much space in the refrigerator, and when we cook them they get hot. I don’t know why you guys like your eggs chilled in the morning anyways, it makes no sense.”

………………………………………………………….

It turns out that the eggs were indeed sitting on the table in the sweltering hot kitchen for days at a time, only to enjoy a nice chill the night before being served up for breakfast the next morning.
At least they were comfortable.

For those of you who have never had salmonella…….don’t.