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Food Experiences

Food Experiences

I have never been a picky eater. Growing up, I could count on one hand the foods I wouldn’t eat— I would eat basically anything except those individual slices of American cheese (those tasted like plastic). But coming to Costa Rica, I have discovered myself to be very picky about the foods here! One may be tempted to think that all Latin American food is similar to Mexican food if Mexican food is all they have encountered. But if you come to Costa Rica with this assumption, you will be disappointed! In reality, each Latin American country has distinct food customs—for example, Costa Ricans eat rice at every meal while the Salvadorian’s staple food are pupusas. I suppose I finally have to accept that my mom was right when she told me, as I was growing up, that taste is a learned trait. However, there are many Costa Rican foods or food customs that I do not think I will be developing a taste for any time soon. Here are five interesting food experiences that I have had so far in Costa Rica!

  1. Imagine a pineapple. Now make it twice as big and pour vanilla yogurt inside of it. If you’ve been following along in your imagination, you might have a pretty good idea of what a Guanabana is like. Despite many attempts to get over my gag reflex, I could not finish the slice I was given. The juice is actually very tasty, and if you ever get the chance to try guanabana juice I suggest you get a whole glass! But the texture of the fruit — the creamy, milk-like substance coming out of a soft but stringy inside– it was too strange for me! Some English speaking areas that cultivate guanabana call it the ‘Custard Apple’.
  2. While we are on the topic of strange fruits, granadilla is one fruit that I have mixed feelings about. When I first wrote this, I tried to find a way to describe the seeds that didn’t make it seem gross, but I couldn’t because in reality the granadilla does not look appetizing! A granadilla is an egg shaped fruit with a thin, soft shell. You crack open the shell, and on the inside is what looks like a bunch of fish eggs. This is really a bunch of black seeds mixed in a mess of some grey substance. Granadillas taste great if you can gather the courage to try eating some of it. The grey liquid is deliciously sweet and the seeds are tart, creating nature’s own version of the popular candy ‘sweet tart’. As long as you don’t get all of the seeds in your mouth at once, (which feels to your tongue that you are indeed eating fish eggs), granadilla is a wonderful snack fruit, and pretty cheap to buy!
  3. My family comes from an Italian background, and as such we have some very specific ideas about how mozzarella cheese should be used. Therefore, I was very surprised when one night for dinner I was handed macaroni and cheese, straight out of the kraft box, but with mounds of mozzarella cheese on top. Talk about a double cheese pasta. Of course, I still ate the plate—this was not even close to guanabana-level dislike. But I don’t think I would ever do it myself!
  4. As a special treat, sometimes my host mom warms up milk for Santiago (my six-year-old host brother) to drink before bed. The first time I discovered this, my host mom warmed some up for me too. And I thought ‘oh, warm milk– that should be fine, I mean, I like cold milk’. But I think that somewhere in my mind I had connected warm milk to spoiled milk, and so I could not shake this bad aftertaste (though it was probably imaginary). I pretended to drink the milk until my mom went to bed, and then I carefully dumped it into the sink.
  5. Another custom Costa Rican’s have is to pour canned fruits on top of your ice cream. When I say canned fruits, I mean the kind you used to get for lunch in elementary school. Can you remember the grainy square slices of pear, the green grapes, the slimy peaches, and if you were lucky, a hollow half of a bright red cherry? That canned fruit. Along with all that sweet, syrupy juice that it’s all pickled in. It was not really gross, just different. I felt that the pure taste of the delicious ice cream was compromised by the canned fruits, but, of course, I still enjoyed eating the bowl!

Now you have a little taste of some of Costa Rica’s food traditions! Now I feel like I must defend Costa Rican food by explaining how, on the whole, tico food is delicious! Ticos (Costa Ricans) eat rice at almost every meal, and they like to have beans, fried pork, and plantains as well. But Costa Rican food it is not to be confused with Mexican food. As I have been learning, just as each Latin American country has a distinct culture and history, so also does each have its own food traditions.

Whether it is trying new and exciting fruits, or getting a feel for the different ways people here eat the foods that I already know, it is all a part of the Costa Rica experience. Study abroad really does broaden your mind, as your understanding grows in every topic. As I learn more about Costa Rican history in my mind, my tongue learns more tastes!

Pura Vida,



10 April 2017


Kortney Cena