I’ve been to Costa Rica twice.
The first time was in 2009, when a past Spanish teacher invited some of his other former students to join a group of his current students on a trip there. Most of former students (the people I knew) couldn’t go, which left just my friend Sonia and me.
By that point, even though I had taken Spanish for three years, I would still fumble during simple conversations. My parents allowed me to go on the conditions that I would speak solely in Spanish, but considering I was there with 20 other teens and a close friend, none of whom could speak much better than I, that didn’t happen.
Instead I spent close to a week making new friends (in English) and having fun, not a total waste I think! (Though, if you ask my mom and dad, they grumble and say, “Yeah, yeah.”)
Me and Sonia in Costa Rica!
This summer, I lived with a Costa Rican family for three weeks. My days were divided between community service and Spanish lessons, with the occasional excursion on the weekends.
Since I visited with my friend and her sister, I wasn’t completely immersed and did speak some English, but with twenty hours of Spanish classes a week, I definitely improved my conversational skills and learned a lot.
When I’m at home, I tend to cook most of my meals myself, mostly because I’m impatient and can’t bear the lag between asking for food and actually receiving it.
In Costa Rica, my host mother generously set out plates of food for me three times a day, and for three weeks I happily ate black beans, flavored rice, cabbage salad, and vegetables, with the occasional caramel candy or slice of cake.
During one of the excursions, I bought a Costa Rican cookbook from a giftshop, already dreading a life without homemade rice and beans at every meal. It’s filled with recipes for savory and sweet dishes, and all the recipes I’ve tried so far have been successes.
I’ll post recipes for rice and beans soon, but they were both devoured before I could take pictures. Luckily, I snapped some shots of this banana cake in time.
This cake is denser than most banana cakes I’ve had, and the recipe called for cloves and nutmeg rather than cinnamon, but it was still delicious.
Costa Rican Banana Cake [Queque de banano]
EDIT: Looking back at this recipe, I’m realizing how crazy its ratio for liquid vs dry ingredients is. I’m not sure how it baked up properly when I made it, but I’ve edited it to reflect this highly regarded recipe, and kept the spices so that it still has that traditional Costa-Rican™
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 1/3 cup mashed ripe bananas
- ½ cup butter, melted & cooled
- ¾ cups sugar (the recipe called for twice as much. I think ¾ cup should be fine)
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and spices.
- In another bowl mash the bananas.
- Add the butter, sugar, eggs milk, and vanilla.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
- Bake in a greased 9×13 pan for about 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.