Patacones: Clases de Cocina

November 8, 2009


For the past 3 and a half weeks I have been attending Spanish language courses at the Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA).  This school offers an intensive and structured way to learn Spanish. First of all, they have a wealth of knowledge about the city of San Jose and excursions around it.  They will book you a hotel and buy you bus tickets.  Not to mention the great professors, small class size and cultural activities.  Every week there are conversation groups, many salsa lessons, soccer games, and cooking classes.

When I walked into my first cooking class I was surprised to see my very own host mother, the school’s regular demonstration chef. She taught us how to make a simple, delicious, and very Tican snack food: patacones.  Patacones are green plantains (they are not fully ripe and more starchy than sweet) smashed and fried and usually topped with goods such as re-fried black beans and sour cream.  Simply slice your plantains into about 1/2 inch wedges and throw them in hot oil (we used corn oil).  Round one. Then we placed the rounds, one at a time in between two pieces of wax paper in what can only be described as a plantain smasher: two pieces of wood on a hinge.  Once smashed they were fried again. Round two. A little salt, beans and sour cream to your liking.  Riquísimo!

I asked my host mom what else these plantain smashers were used for.  She told me some people use them for tortillas. The quintessential Latin America food, the sacred flat bread of finely milled corn, the base of such wonders as tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and who knows what else?! I had to learn. She said she was happy to teach me.  The next day I had a one on one cooking class in her homey, baby blue and navy kitchen while white rice steamed in the corner.  It was a great feeling to connect to my host mom in this way: making food, learning her art, showing her how much I respect her culture and cuisine.  I may begin to lose my Spanish over time, but I will always know how to make a tortilla.

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