I was warned that it is a country of plain food: meat, rice and beans. In my week there (the first half of spring break), I found this to be fairly true–when we weren’t eating Americanized burritos or (surprisingly good) pizza, the majority of our meals were platters composed of white rice, black beans, coleslaw or pickled vegetables, thick white cheese, slightly sour and tender golden fried plantains and perhaps grilled fish from sodas, or small cafeterias selling “typical” Costa Rican food.
But honestly? Plain doesn’t mean bad. After long days of hiking, surfing and beachgoing, I never once got sick of these bountiful platters, and thrived on the huge fried plantain boats filled with salty cheese that we found. (Though now I understand why you don’t find Costa Rican restaurants in the U.S.)
One of my classmates and travel companions for the week had been to Costa Rica twice before and mentioned that her last time in the country had brought an inordinate amount of banana pancakes into her life. I kept an eye out for pancakes the entire trip, but didn’t come across a place that offered them on the menu until we stumbled into an Americanized brunch spot during our last day in the Caribbean side. They were billed as “Caribbean pancakes,” but the stack I received was basically a couple of regular pancakes with a sprinkling of toasted coconut–a far cry from the messy, homey, banana-studded pancakes I had envisioned.
I realize trying to find my ideal pancake in Costa Rica seems silly, but the relevant point is that I got to eventually recreate my ideal pancake at home with the exact right amount of fluff, level of whole wheat heartiness and proportion of shredded coconut and gently crushed banana to bring back the sun-drenched, sandy days of vacation in the Caribbean.