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MARTIN
 
Adventure in Costa Rica
 

My grandparents had five children.  As grown adults, they all lived within ten miles of their parents' farm.  My mom wanted the same thing with her kids.  It didn't happen.  My siblings are spread across Alaska, Oregon, Michigan and Ohio.  And, there's me who spent twenty years living in Africa, Asia and Europe.  Total family gatherings are so very rare. I don't remember the last time when we were all together.  I go years without seeing members of my family. 

Considering this kind of background, the Tico experience was a bit overwhelming.  Most of Mau's family live in the San Jose area.  They get together multiple times during the week.  The extended family gathers an average of twice a month for a birthday, anniversary or some other reason.  And, when forty or more people gather together, someone is always having a birthday.  Never in my life have I seen so much family!

There's always a lot of food involved.  Always.  But, there's also a whole lot of kissing.  Everyone greets everyone at a social gathering.  You greet people in Costa Rica with one kiss, cheek to cheek.  I had to intentionally stop myself every time because in Belgium it is three kisses, cheek to cheek to cheek.  Now, I never was good in math, but imaging the number of kisses if forty relatives gather and each one kisses every other relative upon arrival.

And after a merry time of feasting and family, everyone kisses everyone goodbye too!  Yep, that's a whole lot of kissing.

But, enough with the kissing already! Let's talk about food.  I did have arroz y frijoles, rice and beans, almost every day.  But, fortunately, Ticos do eat more than just rice and beans.  Tortilla bread is a staple at many meals.  I think that most people buy packages of tortillas at the grocery.  However, on one occasion, I know this little old lady in her seventies made her own tortillas.  They were so delicious.

One evening after "muraling" had finished for the day, the group of painters decided it was time for tacos.  I know tacos.  I didn't think there could possibly be anything new as far as tacos go.  However, I'd never had a Tico taco. 

The same kind of soft shelled tortilla is used that you might expect in a soft shelled taco.  Some kind of mystery meat was rolled into it.  In some parts of the world, I specifically need to ask what the mystery meat might be.  I've not wanted to eat snake, dog, horse, monkey or bat.  (Yes, I have had the opportunity to try all of those.  And, yes, I passed.)  However, in the busiest tacoria (taqueria?) in Moravia, I really didn't think I had to worry about mystery meat.

I had to go to the counter to watch the process.  I'd never seen it before.  The stuffed tacos were dropped into a vat of hot oil for deep frying.  I've heard of this done to ice cream, candy bars and twinkies at the state fair.  It's been so long since I've been to a state fair that I don't think I've ever seen it.  I don't think that was done back in the dark ages when I last attended.  But, I'm fairly certain that no state fair anywhere in America does this to tacos. 

After the taco is fried, tomatoes, cabbage and cheese are garnished with ketchup and mayo.  Talk about finger licking good!  No silverware is used, but lots of napkins are.  So good!  So bad for you!  Let me repeat, so good!

The final goodie to share was at yet another family gathering.  This time it was a birthday party complete with clown, balloon animals, piñata, arroz y frijoles and homemade snow cones called "granizado".  It was the snow cones that I found the most interesting.  First of all, I'd never had a home made snow cone before.  It's not that hard.  Crush some ice and pour on some flavoring from a bottle.  Any flavor will do, but mine needs to be red.  The Ticos had a new twist to this old favorite.  They add a dollop of sweetened condensed milk.  As if one form of milk isn't enough, then they add a tablespoon of powdered milk.  Stir it up with your straw and then start kissing some family members.

MARTIN
Copyright 2011 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.