Though I’ll always look back on my honeymoon in Costa Rica with fond memories of the scenery and fun adventures shared with my husband, I also can’t stop thinking about the food. As someone who has some particular habits and some mental roadblocks when it comes to food, I’m rarely eager to try new things. But I managed to step outside of my comfort zone and partake in some traditional Costa Rican fare, which does tend to be mild and rely on fruits and vegetables. Here’s a brief list of what I tried and enjoyed.
Gallo pinto is a mixture of rice and beans and a staple for Costa Rican cuisine. Translated as “speckled rooster” in Spanish, the name characterizes the contrast of the dark beans against the rice. We learned the importance of this traditional dish in terms of culture as well as sustenance. “Gallo pinto is served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” someone told us. While our resort offered gallo pinto only as a breakfast option, I would’ve happily enjoyed it for other meals.
It seems like we had an opportunity to eat fried plantains at every meal in Costa Rica. As someone who only vaguely knew of the connection between bananas and plantains, I expected the flavor to be similar. But, as I found out, fried plantains have more of a savory, starchy taste than bananas. I think I actually prefer them to the hit-or-miss experience of trying to enjoy just the right banana.
During our trip we planned some off-site excursions, and the time away from the resort proved to be an enriching experience. As we passed through the small town of Filadelfia one morning in a van with two guides, my husband snapped a photo of a street vendor with a truck bed filled with a spiny red fruit. “Have you tried rambutan yet?” our guide asked, noticing my husband’s interest. Our answer was no, and the driver instantly pulled our van off the side of the road as the other guide fished some money out of his pocket. Moments later, we held the rambutan in our hands, the soft spines brushing against our palms. We learned how to split the exterior with our fingernails to access the fleshy white fruit inside. It looked and tasted like a skinless grape. Now we smile fondly whenever we see the rambutan in the produce section at Meijer, though the red hue is never as vibrant.
The resort’s bar menu listed the Guaro Sour as the official drink of Costa Rica, so my husband opted to give it a try. It turns out that guaro is a liquor distilled from sugar cane, and the generic term for this type of beverage is “aguardiente”—burning water. In addition to guaro, the cocktail is made with club soda, lime juice, and a dash of raw cane sugar. After taking a sip from his cup, I instantly understood where the “sour” part of the name originated. Refreshing, but definitely potent.
Sugar cane juice
During another excursion, we experienced a cultural demonstration highlighting the importance of Costa Rican crops. Our guide explained the nuances of Costa Rican coffee and the process for harvesting sugar cane. He also gave us samples of pure sugar cane juice. The juice was earthy and bitter with only a hint of sweetness—a little difficult to swallow. This was followed by samples of our guide’s own homemade moonshine, which definitely excited our fellow group members. As he came around and poured shots for everyone, I reflected on the sense of comradery enabled by partaking in something together. Our guide emphasized the importance of this as well. “Mi familia” he called us. And as we all raised our glasses in unison to take a shot, that’s what it felt like.
Kayleigh (Fongers) Van Wyk (’18) graduated with a degree in writing and resides in West Michigan. She works as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Grand Rapids Magazine while also making time for freelance writing. When she’s not behind a screen, she enjoys going for walks, eating ice cream, and buying more books than she’ll ever read.