If you know me, you know that food runs my life. A generally jovial chap, I become quite melancholic at the prospect of missing a meal. In the US, weekly meal plans and weekend trips to the grocery store were how I made sure Emily and I were well fed.
However, things have been different here in Nicaragua. Whether it’s the lack of fridge/freezer space, or the fact that I can purchase all of my provisions within walking distance, I’ve developed a more improvisational style in regards to food preparation. Sure, I’m still constantly thinking about what we’re going to eat, but I’m mostly focused hours, not days, ahead. Here’s what a typical day looks like:
6:30am – I walk out the door after a delightful bowl of oatmeal with banana, homemade peanut butter, and honey. On my way to the bus stop, our sweet neighbor, Doña Carmen, calls out to me “Andrecito le voy a regalar una panita de frijoles recien cocidos esta tarde, ¿oiga?” With the promise of delicious, freshly cooked red beans from Doña Carmen, my mind and stomach are set on our dinner menu for the evening: super pinto, my souped-up take on the traditional Nicaraguan beans and rice dish.
12:05pm – After a full morning of co-teaching 10th grade English at my rural school, I’m waiting for the bus back to Estelí and thinking about dinner. I need to hurry home to heat up leftover noodles for lunch for Emily and I before we teach in the afternoon, so I’m going to hit up the vendors close to our house.
12:40pm – I’m walking from the southern terminal in Estelí towards home. First stop is to my fruit lady to pick up bananas for breakfast tomorrow. Being situated directly in front of the Ministry of Education office, she has befriended all of the PCVs in Estelí, and loves to tell me about the great deal she gives me on fruit. It’s true. She hooks me up.
12:45pm – Bananas in-tow, it’s time to step it up a notch and go big: plantains. Right around the corner from our house, Felix sells plantains, green and ripe, from his front porch at the best price I’ve found. He also loves a good chat, but is fine doing business quickly when I’m in a rush, which I am. I buy four and hit the road.
1:55pm – Belly full of leftovers, I have avocados on the mind as I’m walking to my urban school to co-teach 9th grade for the afternoon. A crucial addition to super pinto, you really can’t overthink how to get the best avocados. Santiago is my go-to guy when he has his stand set up on the main street, but he’s not always there. I keep an eye out for him as I head towards the center of town to the school, and spot him on his usual corner. I’ll be seeing him after class.
5:35pm – I head straight to Santiago as school gets out. He’s usually at his corner from 8am-8pm, but I like to go a bit early just to make sure I catch him. He studied English in Managua many years ago, and, despite having stopped classes for economic reasons, he speaks remarkably well! We chat in English as he gives the “friend price” on his avocados, and I have him throw in a few mangos. I made a promise to myself I’d never pass up mangos during mango season.
5:50pm – My stomach is growling, and I’m eager to start preparing our dinner. I walk one block west to Super Las Segovias, the local co-op grocery store to pick up the last of the ingredients in one fell swoop: eggs, sour cream, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and bell peppers. Sure, I could maybe save a few Córdobas by having purchased the veggies in the market, but the convenience is well worth the very slight sacrifice of price and quality. Plus, I still don’t really trust the unrefrigerated dairy products, so I would’ve made a trip to the grocery store for cream regardless.
6:25pm – Doña Carmen is sitting on the sidewalk in her plastic chair as I pass by, weighed down with groceries. She motions for me to take a seat as she heads inside to grab a bowl of her newly boiled beans. They’re still warm when she hands them to me! My hunger is mounting, so I try desperately to leave with making only minimal small talk, but of course end up chatting for the customary ten minutes. As usual, my conversation is rewarded when Doña Carmen insists I try a plate of beans with some fresh cheese and tortillas she bought that afternoon.
6:40pm – Finally home, I get down to business. I set a pan of vegetable oil to medium-high heat, and start cutting the green plantains into rectangle-shaped chips to be fried for some thick tejadas. Once I get those frying, I set a cup of rice to boil, and begin chopping the garlic, onion, and bell peppers. I sauté those while I cut up the tomatoes and cilantro to add at the end. With all of my veggies prepped, I toss in the beans to the sautéed veggies and fry it all together until the rice finishes cooking.
7:20pm – With the rice done, it’s time to bring it all together. I liberally sprinkle salt and cumin onto my beans and veggies before mixing in the rice, cilantro, and chopped tomatoes. I salt the now crispy plantains, and transfer them to our plates. Into their hot, salty, oily pan I crack four eggs; there’s nothing like runny-yolk, sunny side up eggs to pull this dish together! While the eggs are sputtering nicely, I scoop a portion of super pinto next to the fried plantains, and give us each half of the avocado. I finish off the plate by placing two eggs on top of each bed of rice and beans.
7:30pm – “Emily, la comida está lista!” I call out as I place our plates on the table, and grab the cream and Sriracha from the kitchen. She emerges from her blogging/email work on the computer with an expectant squeal of excitement when she see smells the food. With that, even before I take a bite, I’m already the happiest man in the world 🙂
Blogging Abroad Blog Challenge:
“A Day in the Life”
Digital ambassadors promoting cross-cultural exchange.
Find all of our responses to the challenge here.