SB is from Costa Rica, a small country with broad culinary tastes. One of the most traditional dishes is gallo pinto, which translates literally to “painted rooster.” Gallo pinto is rice and beans with a little bit of spice and cilantro. This is traditionally served for breakfast, so S taught me how to make this dish one day for brunch. She explains,
“The original recipe of gallo pinto is made by doing a sofrito of garlic, onion and bell pepper. As soon as its ready, the beans are added to pan. The beans are gently blended. Most Costa Ricans add the famous ‘Salsa Lizano’ which is a slightly sweet sauce with a hint of pepper and cumin. Finally, the rice is added to create the perfect combination between rice and beans.”
Making the dish seemed like a simple process, but S really took her time, making sure that the ratio of ingredients and flavors was perfect. There’s clearly a craft to making gallo pinto, and I could tell that it was important to S that it be prepared the absolute correct way. I commented on the care S was taking with her cooking, and she replied, “Food this delicious must be made right. In Costa Rica, when we do something we make sure to do it well.” Her attitude was indicative of the pride Costa Ricans have in their culture. They’re a small nation, but their culture is rich and the people are not afraid to brag it. In fact, I believe their intense pride is due to how tiny the country is; they want to be known and recognized as a prominent culture.
S’s nanny taught her how to make gallo pinto. Her nanny has been making it for nearly every day ever since she was a little girl. S says the dish reminds her of home more than anything else because it was a part of her daily life.
The food was delicious. The flavors are simple and it tastes very fresh. This freshness symbolizes Costa Rica itself, which is tropical and green. The country is covered in rainforests and beaches, so the people are close with nature and spend most of their time outdoors.
S told me that “eco-tourism” is actually one of the biggest industries in Costa Rica. Eco-tourism is tourism centered around nature, such as hiking, swimming, beaching etc. Clearly nature is an important part of the Costa Rican experience, and I could really taste this in the gallo pinto. Even though I was eating this dish in LA, I felt like I was on the tropical beach in the middle of Central America.