18 June 2015

And As Good Cooks Go, She Went

San Jose holds little interest for me at this point on our Costa Rica adventure. The nation’s capital appears to be a dichotomy between a developing country and Times Square. As with any large city, there are suburbs. They possess individual names such as San Miguel de Escazú. To me, it’s all just San Jose; but it is indeed interesting to travel between these individual areas. One moment I’m charmed by the somewhat colonial feel of one area, and a ten-minute-ride away I’m thrust into ultra-modern P. F. Chang-world, with its culturally contradicting billboards for Breitling watches and an indoor Lexus dealership. I said, if there’s a White House Black Market, I’m stopping. Happily, there was not.

A few noteworthy things happened in San Jose. First and foremost we obtained our temporary resident cards and no longer need to leave the country every 90 days. Bear in mind that today we’ve been in-country precisely four weeks. This process at immigration and police HQ for fingerprinting took a whopping four (4) hours. We had heard horror stories. In fact, we were practically guaranteed a nightmare. Not so much. Two words: Laura Gutierrez, a dream in every sense of the word.
Certainly there were highlights within the four-hour residency process . . . for instance, at police HQ I made a new pal of the officer who interviewed me (all in Spanish). I was later told that the police are never friendly during these residency interviews, and are, in fact, far-and-away from jovial. How did I do it? Who can say? Rusty said he heard us laughing all the way down the hall.  We also opened a bank account. Again, we had expert help. How was this accomplished in under two hours? I don't know and I don't care.  Need-to-know basis . . . it's how I operate. 

The big take-away from the San Jose trip was the feeling of how permanently planted we are in Costa Rica. At this early honeymoon phase, I want only to nest at Mil Colinas. But I suspect that much like Burkina Faso, one day the capital will hold more interest . . . and a night at P. F. Chang will be the highlight of the month. Okay, I don’t really believe that . . . but it may prove true.

So we returned home, found that little Nut-Meg was still alive, opened a tin of tuna for her, and post-haste opened the bar. Of course good-dog Jill went to San Jose, so she took a moment to patrol the perimeter of her home . . . then went directly for the dinner bowl. We were home at least 30 minutes admiring the sunset view when we noticed something significant -- what's wrong (or very right) with this picture? Why, the gotta-go tree went. It’s gone. Enjoying our second sundowner, we peered over the wall to determine who/what/where/how/when ingress was made onto the cliff to remove that large tree. We were clueless. Did it fall from monkey weight? Did wind fell the tree? Elves? I called Cynthia and Lubos, our builders. Sure enough, Lubos had the tree magically removed . . . hadn’t even bothered to tell Cynthia . . . wanted it all to be a grand surprise. I’d grown accustomed to the tree. I had accepted it as the tiny wart on our otherwise perfect 1.65 acres, more or less. But as blocking-our-view, gotta-go trees go, it went. And now that it’s gone, the valley and canopy tops of the other trees stretch all the way to the sea. It is fantastic.

Time to put away the goodies from San Jose, of which the biggest prize is real grapefruit juice that will marry perfectly with my vodka. Time to embrace the humidity of the Pacific, versus the dry air of San Jose. Within minutes I was melting . . . along with so many of our good-cook goodies.

When we packed in Texas we had the wherewithal to bring loads of dehumidifying products. Crystals that hang from a closet rod to keep clothes dry . . . crystals that sit in a little slotted jar . . . those little packets that come with your electronics saying Do Not Eat . . . and of course the little silica capsules that come in vitamins. The capsules we brought; the vitamins we left. We also brought dozens of batteries. I was not going to purchase batteries for years, as I presumed that they’d either be cost-prohibitive here, or similar in their poor quality to the Chinese batteries in Pô. We may never know, because we are rolling in batteries. Anyway, the batteries were packed in their original plastic cases, wrapped in tissue, and then placed in dry boxes for their sea voyage. Yet three nice D batteries escaped my battery packing over-kill. Upon their discovery the size Ds were oozing some kind of foam . . . and I don’t know where to locate Samara’s toxic waste dump.

So let’s look at what else survived a salty sea journey, only to melt while we were away less than 48 hours in San Jose, having closed the front door as we went . . . thus unwittingly eliminating the cross-breeze. I’m talkin’ especially to you, my prized kitchen possessions . . . raise your hand if you’ve been destroyed by the humidity.
  • The Dean & Deluca spice tins. I never call them cans . . . their little lids pop off requiring no can opener, nor do their lids twist off with any type of threaded top. So they’re tins, right? What do you suppose they’re made of? I’m thinking . . . wait . . . it's tin! And many are rusted through. When I say rusted through, I mean that I can literally put my fingernail through the sides of some tins.
  • Here’s the heart-breaker: the French smoked sea salt that was aged in oak Chardonnay barrels. It’s alright . . . go ahead . . .weep along with me. There were little flakes of rust in with the salt. So just as it came from the sea, it went . . . tossed it right over the cliff toward the ocean-bound river. It’s nature’s way.
  • The cooking crystals that contain the essence of lemon-grass, basil, cardamom . . . all sorts of yummy essences great for cooking but even better for bar tending . . . or mixology, as it's now called. They come in tiny plastic-capped jars, and it only takes a few crystals for a major flavor burst. Sadly, they are now nothing but a rock-hard ball of essence in the bottom of their tiny jars.
Of course, paper for the printer went – stuck together in stacks of three or four sheets, and dissolving at the corners. The photographic paper for the printer? Ruined. Perhaps the silver lining is that the new printer cartridges won’t dry-out in this land. 

Okay, there was one other big take-away from San Jose. Guess who has new poolside furniture, and guess who selected the outdoor dining table? Astounding, I know, right? Like the gotta-go tree that magically went, our new furniture will magically make its way to our pool, shown here finished . . . though you can still see that gotta-go tree in the photo. Lo que hay!