I've just returned from a 10-day mission trip to Cochetal, Costa Rica, a small village in the northern part of the country near the Nicaraguan border. One of the best parts of the trip for me was that our meals were prepared each day by four women from the community, so it was a great opportunity to "eat local".


Every meal we ate was accompanied by slices or chunks of the sweetest pineapple I've ever put in my mouth. This was not a surprise as we passed fields of pineapple on our way to the village every day. Mangoes, too, were part of our daily intake as there were three to four mango trees in every yard, all with branches heavy-laden with ripe fruit. Groves of orange trees covered the landscape, as did lime trees, so there was often a hint of citrus in the air.

We could also count on there being rice at every meal, and I was surprised to learn that a variety of dry-land rice is grown in this part of Costa Rica. We had black beans and rice for breakfast, and, on several occasions, variations of chicken and rice (arroz con pollo) for lunch and dinner. I refrained from licking my plate at the end of every meal out of sheer politeness.

One of my favorite meals was the one we had on the very first day: arroz con pollo topped with a spicy black bean sauce, a vinegary coleslaw, thick wedges of fried flour tortillas, and pineapple slices. These two recipes for arroz con pollo and black bean sauce come pretty close to the ones we enjoyed so much last week. "Muchas Gracias" hardly seemed adequate thanks for the amazing food we savored every day of our stay in Cochetal.