Today I woke up in a hammock strung between a mango tree and a coconut palm. In these relaxing hangout spots of Costa Rica, I have learned that being conscious of the food we eat is a grand part of being aware of where you are. The family from Uvita that is hosting me has a quaint house in the tropical countryside. They eat organically. From their backyard. Last night I drank the best pineapple juice I’ve ever had, meters from the place where the pineapples were growing. It was the first time in my life seeing a pineapple growing, let alone drank from one that was cut off the bush hours before. I am lucky to have this opportunity. Thousands of tourists visit Uvita to see the whales, the breathtaking waterfalls and go to the music festival. Very few of them are able to step into the lives of someone who lives off the same land. Probably just two. The two cyclists who, after experiencing incredible bouts of hunger from riding for 10 hours in the heat, have an uncanny appreciation for gifts of food. Going on a bicycle tour makes you the kind of person who hums loudly with each bite, singing “riquísimo” in praise, and spends twenty minutes in silence after a single bite of a mango. A mango that you got to pick, from a tree that you slept under.
It’s more than just the thousands of new fruits, drinks and dishes we have seen in new countries, but the time, effort, and specific location required for the creation of such wonderful moments and gifts. We are part of the lucky few who get to understand the wide range of food in Latin America. It has made me realize that the places we go as humans, and the time we spend in them, make up who we are as people. I would also add the the food we eat is a large part of our personalities. Jaziel, the women who is hosting us here in Uvita, is ‘amable,’ a Spanish phrase meaning friendly and with an open heart. She knows the entire process, from groundwater to flowering fruits, of how her food came about. People who are the most down to Earth and happy with what they have are those that are aware of themselves, what food they put in their body and where it comes from. They know that this is what makes up who they are. A small house in the countryside has more room for fruit trees. And someone who owns that home has more room in their life to welcome complete strangers, feed them and spend hours learning about each other’s favorite foods and cooking techniques.