Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

We'll both have the tipico ...

Wick's World


“We’ll both have the tipico,” my wife told the waitress, who was also the cook and the owner’s daughter at the small bistro where we had our first authentic Costa Rican meal.

We later learned there was no such thing as the tipico, el tipico or la tipico. It was simply tipico which said it all. Whether you sat down to dine in the fanciest restaurante in Costa Rica’s few cities or grabbed a table by the water at La Playa, tipico either came with the meal or was the meal.

In its simplest form, tipico meant a plate of white rice, black beans and fried plantain with a bottle of uniquely flavored Lorenzo sauce at its side. At breakfast, tipico came with an egg and slab of cheese. At lunch and dinner, tipico added fresh seafood, chicken or rarely a small piece of beef. I later learned Costa Ricans only ate white rice; the rest was exported to other countries. Why the beans were always black, I have no clue. Maybe Mexicans ate all the pintos. I suspect the reason the black bean is held in such high esteem has more to do with its flavor than its color. After eating black beans morning, noon and night for our entire trip, a strange thing happened to my palate. For the last five weeks upon returning from this tropical jungle, rainforest and beach paradise, I have eaten black beans and rice every day. I ate pintos, garbanzos, red and kidney beans not one time.

As in every parcel of food put on our plates, freshness and nutrition are emphasized. Let me point out that Costa Rican white rice is not the polished, nutrition-removed white rice you get in America. You know the one with a picture of someone’s friendly uncle on the box?

The meals are always cooked with coconut oil. To notice the recent sales boom following the discovery of the virtues of using coconut oil in its various forms, one only need to walk in any grocery, supermarket or department store in America. Compare what is now available on the shelves with just a few years ago. Coconut and especially its oils can be purchased for uses that range from the top of your head (shampoos and conditioners), food for the mid-section, to soothing salve for the bottom of your feet.

What caused the explosion in coconut related products? Costa Rica’s Nicoya peninsula where we spent much of our time became famous in Dan Buettner’s bestselling book, "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest." It is one of the five spots in the world designated as a "Blue Zone" because of the amount of centenarians per capita in their population.

Besides the virtues of coconut, if you want to know the criteria the book was based on, take a vacation to the Nicola peninsula. Simply moving there does not up the odds of your reaching 100 years of age unless you begin this diet and way of living early on in life.

Once you’ve spent a few days in this tropical paradise, you notice that Tico and Pura Vida are the country’s most common words you hear. Tico has been adopted by the Costa Ricans as a way to refer to their self. It’s kind of similar to when someone asks a Texan what country they are from. The impulse is to answer “Texas.” If they find themselves in a formal position where that would be inappropriate, they simply use the term “Mearcu.”

Pura Vida can either mean hello, goodbye, how are you or any number of terms of acknowledgement. Literally, Pura Vida means “pure life,” something that the ticos are extremely proud of. The people of this eco-friendly environment of Costa Rica, combined with nourishing food and a laid-back way of life, more than justifies a trip to this magnificent, breathtaking country.


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