Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Avoiding Starvation Like a Pro (The Culinary Delights of Bluefields, Nicaragua - Part 1)

Despite the colorful advertisements, the worldwide renown – even the glowing reviews from this particular blog – some individuals would argue that Bluefields is something other than a culinary experience of the highest caliber. These individuals are not the kind of people you want to be friends with. These people are never happy, they are never sated, they will never be fulfilled by the rice-and-beans dailiness of your company.

Sure, the cheese is sub-par. It’s salty, sold in blocks, and looks (/tastes) like a hybrid, frankensteinian food creation somewhere between pumice and a sponge. Soy cheese will melt with more gusto. Sure, the proliferation of chicha, an artificially pink-colored corn-based drink sold in small plastic bags, will leave you shaking your head and scrubbing your tongue. Sure, there’s only iceberg lettuce. Sure, your favorite foods don’t exist here.

But, there are certain things to look forward to. Our initial compilation:

Coco Bread: Purchased for 15 cords a loaf from a nunnery near downtown, Casa bE’s hunger for the lard-led pan de coco is the stuff of legends. Slice it, toast it, freeze it, take it to school for show-and-tell. Add honey, cocoa powder, peanut butter, or nothing at all, this will still be your heaven-sent staple with almost every meal. Still unsatisfied? We can never be friends. But for 25 cords, the nunnery also sell a little something extra called “good bread,” with spices, fruit, honey, and an extra helping of goodness.

(Even nuns like to show off once in a while.)

Fruit: You can barely walk down the street here without getting bonked by a coconut or brained by a papaya. The sky’s the limit, as long as you’re looking for something tropical or an apple. Kids walk around selling pink Nicaraguan pears for a cord apiece. Oranges, limes, melons, watermelons (pricey), pomegranates, bananas, and passion fruit abound. Frescas made of water and miscellaneous fruit puree accompany most lunches here.

Mas x Menos: Pronounced “mas por menos” (“more for less”), this is the closest you’ll be getting to any semblance of a supermarket. Items are stacked behind the counters on 15-foot-high shelving units. If you want it, you have to ask for it. Prepare to be vaguely amused (M&M’s and corn flakes), but there’s a cubbyhole for high hopes at the door. Asking for something as basic as brown sugar will get you confused stares, and mumbles about the normal sugar being kind of brown. Bluefields, sadly, has yet to firmly establish itself as a thriving pastry mecca.

Mas x Menos 2: Because one more-for-less is never enough! About two blocks away from the first, and more expensive.

Seafood: So many varieties, even the locals don’t know all their names. Everything but lobster is cheap (shrimps, prawns, oysters, and a plethora of pescado), and everything is fresh. Men and boys prowl the streets of Bluefields carrying buckets or pushing carts of shrimp on ice, advertising their catch with piercing calls of Chacaline, Chacaline throughout the day. 

You’ll be a happier person not confusing them with the ice cream cart.

1 comment:

  1. A good (and witty) reality check for foodies. Rice, beans & fruit are the all time, life sustaining foods of most of humanity. Real food can mean real boring-but this often what is most needed for health.

    A medical doctor once said to me, "Americans have it backwards. Food should be 90% boring but life should be 90% exciting."