As many of you may already know, I will set out in my truck in four weeks down the Pan-American Highway with all of my worldly belongings to start a new life in Costa Rica. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a funny little country that moves slow, likes to enjoy life and is warm all year. Costa Rica is historically a major farming country and much of the population still lives outside of the capital in the countryside growing food and raising livestock on family farms. There are some great benefits to living in a country that focuses on so much small scale farming, especially now with the infant organic food movement that has begun there. As a man who likes benefits and such, I have begun to explore this fascinating little world with earnest.
On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I had the fortune of catching the organic farmers’ market that happens on Wednesday mornings in Escazu (a small town on the outskirts of San Jose). I had been before and it wasn’t an exceptionally large market, so I was amazed to see that there were already 30 or 40 people there lining up waiting for the vendors to begin selling their goods at 7:00 in the morning. Apparently nowadays this is considered to be a slow day. On busy days most of the produce is gone within an hour or two and there can be over 60 people in line before it even opens!
Although the market is rustic and far smaller than what we are typically used to in California, the variety is impressive as is the spirit of the vendors there selling their wares and helping to build a community that is more mindful of eating organic. In a lot of ways it’s how I imagined the Bay Area “foodie” scene must have started out. They sell everything from lettuce, tomatoes, garlic and onion as well as a wide variety of delicious tropical fruits like pineapple, passion fruit, papaya and mango. I bought some wonderful dried fruit there that day including a unique find – dried watermelon! I have no idea how she did it, but the watermelon’s texture wasn’t like any other dried fruit and the taste was incredible. Intense watermelon flavor with a chewy feel, I have never had anything quite like it.
There was also the usual crew with the fresh fish. They don’t have a sign or anything, they just hang out and sell fish – it’s fresher than almost anything in the city. Some of the best seafood is found inside of highly suspicious plastic boxes with ice. Specialty foods are also slowly starting to make their showing like smoked trout and locally made organic jam, but the star at this market is definitely the produce. I had remembered visiting the same market over a year ago and it has grown tremendously both in variety, popularity and quality.
As I left the market with my girlfriend and her mother with armfuls of goodies, we couldn’t resist and had to stop by the truck parked next to our car and buy a few fresh green coconuts, still on the stalk. He took out his machete and lopped the tops of for us and gave us each a straw. His slightly toothless smile, easy going nature and skill with a machete really signified, to me, what life is all about here.
Truth be told, I am thrilled to be going there at a time where the slow food movement is in its early stages and there is nothing but possibilities. I am also excited to continue sharing food thoughts, ideas and updates on local food scenes as Kitchen on Fire begins to extend its family tree to Costa Rica! I will have so many more stories to tell, so keep coming back here for more. I will be back in the Bay Area from time to time so come join me in the KoF kitchens so I can teach and share with you all that I am going to learn and experience. Cheers!