Food for Thought

Food is the greatest source of happiness and comfort. Well, maybe that’s actually a warm hug from your mother, but food is awesome too, right?

Being a picky eater (I don’t like cheese, eggs, potatoes, etc…. Yes, my friends harass me for this) and entering a country with a totally different food culture was a nerve-wracking combination. My fear was that I would be constantly hungry due to not liking the food. Luckily, my full-tummy and I are extremely grateful that did not turn out to be the reality

The native foods

The Tico’s of Costa Rica definitely eat differently than what I am used to back in the States. The two staple foods here are rice and beans and are featured as part of most meals. The two most typical meals here are Gallo Pinto, a mixture of rice and beans, and Casado.

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Casado is a meal that consists of a serving of rice, beans, a choice of meat, salad, and fried plantains.

Other staple foods in Costa Rica include friend plantains, mayonnaise, and hot dogs. Fried plantains are simply delicious, especially the way my Mama-Tica makes them (I think she adds a ton of love and care, but she hasn’t given me the exact recipe yet). Whenever my roommates and I get back from class to see fried plantains on the table, we jump around with joy.

Mayonnaise is the ketchup of Costa Rica and I was shocked to discover that. Mayonnaise is on the table at every restaurant and, yes, french fries are dipped in it too. They use it on everything!

Another shocking food discovery was the amount of hot dogs here. In the same day I have had hot dogs served as a part of breakfast and for dinner. This was definitely not expected, but as a hot dog enthusiast, I’m definitely not complaining!

For when Mama Tica isn’t cooking

With a homestay program, breakfast and dinner is included each day. While this is great and having dinner with Mama Tica is the highlight of my days, it also means that for lunch and on weekend trips, I have to fend for myself. Thankfully, this has led me to find some really great restaurants.

My two favorite restaurants for a good lunch near school are Las Lenitas, a Mexican-style restaurant where you can’t go wrong, and Grani Tico, a soda owned by my friends Mama and Papa Tico that serves great traditional Tico food.

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Sodas are small restaurants that typically serve traditional Costa Rican food.

During weekend trips outside of San José, I have been able to find some delicious restaurants. I spent all of last weekend in Jaco, a beach town no more than two hours from San José. While there, I enjoyed the beach, nightlife, and, of course, the food! I found two delicious places to eat. The first was “Frutas y Tablas”, a cute smoothie place just a walk from the beach. I spent each morning there diving into an acai bowl loaded with fresh fruits before diving into the ocean. The second place I found in Jaco is called “Taco Joint”. It was a make-your-own taco place that had the best fish tacos I have ever had in my life.

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A perfect acai bowl the morning before a long beach day.

Other than great food, going to local restaurants is a great way to meet Ticos, practice Spanish, and indulge my way through the Costa Rican culture.

Learning to cook

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CEA students chopping up vegetables during a trip to a local culinary school

Thanks to CEA and my university here in San José, I have been able to partake in another aspect of food as a cultural experience: cooking. With CEA, I got the chance to visit a local culinary school and help prepare a full Costa Rican meal, dessert, and fresh juice, with other CEA students.

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When going abroad, the most important thing to remember is to drop your expectations.

I am so thankful for all of my experiences here in Costa Rica and I am happy to say that while my heart is full, my stomach may be fuller.

Pura Vida,


 Amanda V. is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO in San José, Costa Rica. She is currently a junior studying to be a Physician Assistant at Philadelphia University


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