Saturday, November 24, 2007

Heartfelt goodbyes to a wonderful dinner

Tomorrow p:w leaves for Cahuita on the Caribbean Coast by way of San Jose. It is good to be moving again, but its bittersweet after having made such genuine friends.

La Botella de Leche has really been a second home for us. Weve made friends with a few people in town (a shout out to Pedro y familia), and a few long term regulars here at the hostel--Juan (Dengue Boy), Crystal, Wences, Santiago, Christian and Stephanie--which has made our stay so wonderfully hospitable. You really cant ask for a better experience than this, or for better people to have spent your time with. You all will be missed.

I have a lot of love in my heart for Mariana, the hostel mother, who has taken us in and made us all feel special and loved. From travel stories over the terriffic Costa Rican coffee, to the hugs and laughs over my studying trig and computer science at the free computer station, Mariana has been so gracious in her acceptance and genuine in her love. I will sorely miss her when I go! I still have a smile though, because I know I will see her again. Hasta luego...

I especially want to give thanks for the cleaning ladies here: Socorro, Piedad, y Reina. Over countless questions in broken Spanish, to eventual jokes and running conversations as I labored over rolling out and cooking the tortillas (and I mean labored), Socorro has been such a friend. She helped me with my Spanish, my black beans, and my rice, and when we hugged goodbye this evening I missed her immediately.

That being said, to celebrate Cash and my departure, and that of a few other "regulars," I put together a huge dinner. I was cooking for 12! The menu:

Mahi Mahi tacos with all the fixins, a spicy mango-cucumber salsa, homemade tortillas, spicy refried black beans, and rice pilaf with grated carrot, garlic and onion.
It was a giant success! It started with a trip to Pedros, a final high five and goodbyes, and 4 1/2 pounds of fresh caught Mahi Mahi. Let me tell you, that is a lot of fish. The marinade I put together was spicy lime with cilantro and garlic. Next was rolling out 35 flour tortillas (with extra butter!), starting a giant pot of black beans, and whipping up two pans of toasted Spanish rice. Then came the salsa, chopping up the avocados, cabbage, tomatoes, and the rest. I was cooking for 7 hours today, covered in flour, sweat, and campfire smoke. Cooking is hard work baby... I really was slaving over a hot oven all day. I dont know how some people can do that all the time, but I certainly have a lot more respect for it. Heres to use #37 for a nalgene bottle: rolling pin.

Cash was really helpful as well. From all the prep cook work, to building the firepit, to cleaning up the dishes, Cash made the entire process 100% smoother. He learned a lot too, so I expect him to do a little more cooking in the future. Stephanie helped as always, simulatneously stirring two pans of rice, chopping veggies, and being a guinea pig taster for the salsa. All this with me looking on and giving advice and directions. Thanks to you both for your help and your patience!

The final product was amazing. Bright yellows and greens and reds mingled in the salsa, stacks of warm, fresh homemade tortillas adorned neatly folded red towels, while two plates piled high with beautifully grilled fish stole the show. There were giant ceramic pots with black beans, and another for the orange and yellow colored rice. A great heaping bowl of avocado, a mass of purple cabbage, red tomatoes and grated carrot completed the presentation on separate cutting boards to the side. Everything was served with great big wooden spoons with worn handles, and everyone was delighted. It was a feast for the eyes and the belly! All the hostel animals agreed--the 3 dogs Pujo, Romi, and T.B.--dutiful opportunists to the last, had to be shooed several times during the course of the meal ambling woefully off before appearing just minutes later somewhere else. We all dug in.

You know, there is nothing like a big dinner to bring people together, and its even better when everyone has gelled into a family. To see everyone laughing and eating and having a great time fixed that image and sensation for me, and suddenly all the work was worth it. It was a rush. Compliments, jokes, and rum and cokes abounded.

I even had a money bowl for people to help pay for the work and ingredients. It was so successful, Cash and I ended up eating for free and got a little money in our pockets to boot. This is definitely a good skill to have on the road--now if only I had my bartending equipment...

Anyhow, now it is time for packing up and getting prepared for a 5:45 am, 7 hour bus ride to San Jose. Cash and I will be making our way to the Carribbean the day after that for another week of surfing and relaxing before we hit Bocas del Toro in Panama, and then eventually sailing to Columbia to feel out the waters there.

Again, a great big thank you to everyone in La Botella--I will never forget the good times.

Con gusto,

1 comment:

Kitsune said...

Your writing about cooking always reminds me of the classic Like Water for Chocolate..and I know from drinking your Gin and Tonics and crazy good Mojitos that there's alotta love in there! Here's to aphrodisiac cooking and new adventures! Travel safely you two, you're in my thoughts every day.