The year 2008 changed everything about who I thought I was before and who I know myself to be now. It changed how I saw the world, and it changed who I want to be, and it changed the things I choose to love. In January of that year, I moved to Nicaragua to serve as a missionary, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Teaching the "good news" to people, giving them hope for something better.
Nicaragua is a beautiful land of lakes and volcanoes, beaches and coffee plantations, but littered by two things. The first: garbage of all sorts lines most of the roads. It infuriated me that they disrespected their land in that way. But the second "litter" was a psychological one. The people, marred by a warring resistance three decades ago, are reluctant to forge close relationships with each other. It seemed so sad to me because they love to laugh and enjoy their families.
I lived in the coastal fishing village of San Juan del Sur, the popular getaway for most Managuans, and a great jumping-off spot for surfers and real estate investors.
One thing about every town I visited: gallo pinto (pronounced gah-yo peen-toh). It's a staple of every meal, consisting of rice and beans, and it is usually accompanied by a little dollop of sour cream and a boiled or fried plantain. I actually became quite accustomed to it, to the point that I made it a go-to meal when in a pinch for something quick. It's not fancy, but it's a hearty dish!
Regarding the plantain, many folks are a little intimidated when it comes to incorporating it into a meal, so the snack I mention below is easy and will satisfy your "sweet and salty" tooth!
Get a RIPE plantain (this is important! Find one that is yellow, almost brown. Not green! You want it to be a little soft when squeezed), and buy some Mexican Queso Fresco (Literally "fresh cheese"). The cheese can be found in the Mexican cheese section in your supermarket. Cut the plantain in half. Slice the plantain and cheese lengthwise into thick pieces, about 1/4-1/2" thick. Heat some peanut or coconut oil to frying heat and fry both until browned. I fry the plantain first, and then the cheese. The cheese does not need preparation, but be sure to use a spatula to lift it out of the pan.
After cooling slightly, salt lightly and eat the two together at once. Sweet and salty!
1 medium onion, diced or sliced thinly
2 cups rice
2 cups red beans
about 1/4 cup vegetable oil
Pour vegetable or olive oil and onion in frying pan and sautee. Set onion aside and then put vegetable oil and rice in a frying pan on high heat. Fold/stir rice occasionally so that it browns fairly evenly. It will start to smell like popcorn. When rice has browned and oil is still hot, start adding water. It will boil and steam. Stir occasionally and keep adding water until fully cooked. Add cooked onion.
In a pot, boil beans until cooked. Remember to add water as you go, because much will be boiled into the beans or evaporate as they cook. (Or stick them in the crock pot for a few hours.) Add salt to taste.
Now, use equal parts beans and rice and mix together. I like to add a little cumin, Tabasco or other hot sauce, and sour cream.
"Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, & who we want to be." -- Molly Wizenberg