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El Pan de Costa Rica

El Pan de Costa Rica

Bread is one of the most ancient foods of humanity. Its relevance is included in world religions that use bread as a symbol of spiritual nourishment. Bread is also the product of specific cultures and traditions. In fact, some people say that if you want to understand a culture you need to eat its bread. IMG_4974-1To do so, you need to visit the bakeries run by the local people. And we did. With some of our students we went to buy bread in one of the neighborhoods of Santa Ana, Costa Rica. A block before the bakery we were able to smell the bread still in the oven, and that smell always whets my appetite. Costa Rica’s bread is different from the bread we tried in Mexico, India, the United States, or Israel. Its bread is extremely sweet or prepared with spices, herbs, or some kind of meats and cheese.

IMG_4961-1Costa Ricans produces and drinks one of the best coffees in the world. Usually they don’t put sugar in their coffee, but bread often accompanies their coffee. One has the sensation that one of the reasons they don’t use sugar is because sweetness comes with the bread. Costa Rican bread is also prepared with a variety of fruits such as apples, cherries, pineapple, bananas, or creme.

IMG_4968-1But more impressive than their bread are the panaderos, the people who bake the bread. We met a woman who bakes and sells the bread, as we liked to show up just when the baguettes were coming out of the oven. She was rather short and robust, resembling a stereotypical portrait of an Italian baker. She shared with us not only her bread but the wisdom of a baker. When she returned to us the money she overcharged in the bill, we recognized her honesty, and I said to her: “You are a virtuous person, you are going directly to heaven.” Wisely she replied: “May God make you a prophet and not a liar!”