Costa Rica is making me a better cook. I sorta liked to cook before we came, but the limited choices and outlandish prices here have forced me to turn it up a notch in the kitchen. Haha, get it? Okay, anyway, It also seems that without a ready supply of cheap eats (there are evenings that I long for Papa Murphy's like a spurned and jilted lover) and in the absence of stuffed and frozen tortellini, the days of the 5 minute meal are over. Now, I have to say, I've never had an interest in becoming the next Betty Crocker. And I've rejected the notion that all Moms have to make scrap-books and do crafts in order to fulfill their title. Truthfully, I'd rather drink a Margarita than make one. But here, if I want a Margarita, it's gonna start with a handful of fresh squeezed limes, a warm and drizzly simple syrup, and a dash of orange juice. In other word, If I don't make it happen, it ain't gonna happen. Here are some examples of what seems to be a culinary transformation that has taken place over the past year:
Before/Folsom, CA After/San Pablo de Heredia
Papa Murphy's combo Homemade risen crust, hand cut veggies, cooked&crumbled bacon, sliced ham, and maybe some freshly roasted red peppers
Grilled Cheese & Campbels Tomato soup Fresh Basil/Tomato soup, made from a roux base with fresh garlic, torn basil, hand grated parmesan cheese, and stewed tomoatoes (the grilled cheese is the same, but it cost more here)
Bottled Salad Dressing Carefully measured blends of herbs and spices, stored in ziplock baggies with instructions for adding oil, vinegar, cream, or buttermilk written clearly in sharpie.
Breakfast Sausage Ground pork, rosemary, fennel, salt, pepper, brown sugar, crushed red pepper, garlic. *this one's still waiting in the freezer, but it's day is approaching quickly
So, you get my drift. I still want yummy food and I can't afford to buy it here. Or, it doesn't exist here. Either way, I have found that with a little ingenuity and a lot of goopy, egg covered, flour sprinkled, oil spattered elbow grease we can still enjoy sitting down together at the end of our day with a hot meal that we LOVE. Don't misunderstand - we still have "breakfast for dinner" nights on those occasions when I just don't have it in me to whip up a cheesy alfredo sauce or can't stand the thought of chopping a pile of onions or washing a million dishes. And we still head for MCD's when we're so hungry we can't think. But, overall, I think we eat better than we did in the states. Fresher, simpler, yummier food.
Today, I made pumpkin bread - from a pumpkin! I kid you not! The boys and I chopped up their Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns, baked them, scooped out the flesh, and pureed it into a disgusting, baby food like substance. This morning, I baked 2 loaves of pumpkin bread with ribbon of sweet cream cheese flowing through the center. The house smelled AMAZING! And, oh my Gosh, did it feel like fall for the first time in more than a year!!!
But wait - Before you start to imagine me bent over the stove in an apron with my hair braided into a bun, madly stirring some concoction to perfection, remember - I fully endorse fast-food, frozen food, and generally pre-prepared junk. Which, should I ever return to live in the US, I will fully embrace once again. But, from this point forward, when I put a home cooked meal on the table, it's gonna be quality. Just call me Suzie Freaking Homemaker!