One of the craziest experiences in Costa Rica, besides the cat calls, the prostitution, and the well trained homeless dogs, is the fact that Costa Ricans, for the most part, do not wear athletic clothing outside like regular clothes. They look at Americans funny when they see us in yoga gear or sweatpants going to class. It’s much like the way we look at people who wear their pj’s to the store or to class. And now I understand why. Workout clothes were made to work out in! Go figure! LOL. But here we are with our luggage stuffed with yoga tops and bottoms, sweatpants and basketball shorts looking like we are the craziest bunch of Americans to have arrived at Universidad Veritas! There is an unspoken rule here in Costa Rica, walk like you are know where you are going even if you don’t look like it. Otherwise instead of people speaking to you slower so that you understand, they will speak louder and then you look like a weird dressing American who can’t hear and who doesn’t know where they are going. And trust me, you don’t want to have that experience.
Which leads me to the real subject of this blog, empanadas. There is this stand on campus. (I started going there because I didn’t want to get lost trying to find a spot to eat. Those who know me know that I am horrible with directions! You can turn me around in a couple of circles and I would be lost for several minutes.) So any way, there is this stand on campus that I normally go to when I don’t want to spend a lot of money. Food is relatively cheap here. You can get a nice cansado between 2000-3000 mil but that’s only if you have time to get it. There is this thing they call “Tico Time” and if you are in a rush you may not want to go to a neighborhood soda for lunch. (Soda’s are home-style restaurants that serve cheap but sometimes good food. You just have to know where the good ones are.)
Anyway, the guy at the cart sells empanadas for 900 colones. (This is less than 2 dollars in the states). They are really good. They are not made the same way they are made in the states. In the states I have had them mostly deep-fried with a flour tortilla. But here, they are made with cornmeal. He puts them on his grill and stuffs them with your choice of mayo, ketchup, mustard, hot salsa, bbq sauce, and Costa Rica’s version of slaw. When I order mine I say, “empanada de pollo por favor.” If he doesn’t have chicken, I ask for bistek/carne. And because my spanish was really limited when I first arrived (I didn’t know how to say the names of the condiments) and he doesn’t speak English, when he asked what I wanted on it I said “todos, pero un poco. To which he quickly corrected me “un poquito todos”. I didn’t know what it would taste like. I am not big on condiments. But I am here to tell you I am a believer now! The empanadas are so good and filling. As a student here, my Mama Tica is responsible for cooking my breakfast and dinner. (I should say the maid is responsible for cooking my breakfast and dinner) So lunch is on me. I am trying to really pace myself monetarily. There is so much to do in Costa Rica so food is the last thing you should go broke paying for.
So if you are ever in San Jose and you are studying at Veritas remember these two things: wearing your work out clothes when you are not working out is like wearing your pj’s when you are not going to bed, and always keep 1 mil in your pocket just in case you see the man at the cart.
Written by Patricia Nazirah Mickey, Social Media Journalist