For today’s lunch, I’m making a version of Costa Rica’s national dish, Gallo Pinto, or black beans and rice. So I guess that makes it a Central American brunch. I will equip it with a typical Costa Rican cabbage salad. And of course it will have the ubiquitous Costa Rican condiment, Lizano Salsa. It looks like hot sauce, and it certainly is spicy, but it is also tangy, a little sweet, and does not really pack much heat. Since I to use enough hot sauce at times to catch my hair on fire, this is awfully mild. But it is awesome in flavor! It is well worth the effort to find.
Why Costa Rica? What great athletes has Costa Rica produced to include them alongside the Tarahumara and the Kenyans here at the Training Table?
The Nicoya peninsula, on the Pacific side of the country and home to much of the country’s best surf and natural beauty, is also home to an amazing group of centenarians. This so-called “blue zone” is home to a very successful, long-lived population. While they might not do hundred mile runs from canyon like the Tarahumara, as health goes, they use the same Meso-American diet to stay healthy for a very long time. The key to any great athletic achievement is training consistently. In my mind, to succeed as an athlete you must first be healthy enough to train an recover day after day. Populations who are successful at aging can teach us something.
A few years back, National Geographic Magazine published an article about longevity. They sent their team out to known areas with surprising longevity. The first was in mountainous Sardinia, where the men especially had amazing lifespans. They circled the area on the map with a blue marker, and the name stuck. The article spawned an ongoing research project, and a book that is well worth a read. The secrets to longevity are not all nutritional, and the book is not a diet book. While it is surprising to see the diversity in diets, plant-based was the strongest connection. The Youtube channel is well worth checking out, not just for the Costa Rican videos.
Costa Rica is a peaceful country with decent health care and a high literacy rate. They seemed to have escaped much of the turmoil and strife of their Central American neighbors. Like the Tarahumara, they rely on corn and beans as the main source of calories. Other common foods are various tropical fruits. Not as much in the way of veggies, and certainly not much for leafy green veggies, which surprises me. After all, we are constantly instructed to eat more greens, eat more greens! They prevent cancer! They prevent heart disease! They’ll get you a date Saturday night! They’ll cure cancer! But indigenous Americans have been subsisting on corn and beans very successfully for thousands of years. Maybe it’s easier than we thought.
1 C dry black beans, soaked
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 carrot, minced
pinch each of cumin seed, coriander seed, and thyme
a few dried red chili pods
a bay leaf
dash liquid smoke
Combine beans with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. While heating, chop and add the vegetables and seasonings except for salt and liquid smoke. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed.
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped small
jalapeno or serrano, minced (optional)
handful chopped fresh cilantro
Cooked rice to serve.
Saute veggies in a skillet until soft, when beans are done.
1. Mix beans and rice into veggies, heat through and serve.
2. Fill bowl with rice, top with bans, then finish with veggies. (my preference, I find it too easy to over-mix cooked beans and rice, and get a horrible gluey mess)
3. Use as a filing for fresh corn tortillas.
Top with Lizano Salsa, avocado, or fresh pico de gallo salsa.
Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Yes, please!