eating in a cloud of incense
Friday, February 1 2019
location: Casa Trogon, Agua Vista Lodging, Montezuma, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
This morning Gretchen drove off to the nearby town of Cobano (where the MegaSuper is) in hopes of finding a pharmacist who could get her some sort of antibiotic treatment for her ear. The pharmacist told her she'd have to go to a clinic, but the clinic was overcrowded (socialized medicine!) and I forget the details, but Gretchen went back to the pharmacist hoping they would just give her something. It all seemed like a lost cause until Gretchen mentioned that the problem was swimmer's ear. On hearing that, the pharmacist immediately scared up some ear drops and the matter was completely solved. While in Cobano, Gretchen stopped at the MegaSuper to get some more canned tofu (and perhaps other things).
This afternoon at around 4:00pm local time, I drove our SUV down to Projecto Montezuma, the place where Gretchen is taking language classes a kilometer or so southwest of the center of Montezuma. The place is super hippie, with several young women (more of them than men) who look and dress like the women I went to college with back when I and they were young, though with darker, more seamless suntans. Behind the Projecto Montezuma building was an outcrop of volcanic rocks hosting small natural swimming pools and even a tiny white sand beach.
Gretchen's class had just ended, and I got to meet her instructor, a 27 year old local named Andy. For whatever reason, he fetched us both fresh coconuts, each with a cap chopped away so we could drink the milk. There was far too much in both coconuts for Gretchen and me to eat and drink, so some of it went to waste.
Gretchen's main reason for having me come down to pick her up was so we could go hang out on Montezuma's nicest beach, the one northeast of the center of the village (between Montezuma and Ylang Ylang, that resort we stayed at back in April of 2008). Driving there through town is always sort of involved, what with all the slow pedestrians, dogs, motorcycles, and ad hoc parking restricting streets to a single lane (or even less). Gretchen isn't as fazed by this as I am, saying that when she drives in Montezuma, she goes directly into "tiko mode," where time becomes unimportant and one actually feels empathy for others needing the streets. This is very different from the way Gretchen is when, say, driving in Manhattan. Anyway, we parked near the desired beach and then walked to semi-shady part of the beach (much of the beach is shaded after 4:00pm due to the forested mountain to its west), spread out towels, and did the beach thing for not all that long. I made one excursion from there to the surf, mostly to wash the sand off my Keens. I also wanted to say hello to a big black Labrador-style dog that was just hanging out by himself. As I approached, he rolled over on his back so I could rub his belly.
After we'd had enough of the beach, we thought we'd have dinner there in Montezuma. We decided to try out Organico, a very hippie-looking restaurant in front of which all the ex-pat bracelet vendors hawk their wares.
Initially, Organico didn't seem to have beer on the menu, but it turned out that they did serve one kind of beer (I believe it was Pilsen), though only in a little eight ounce glass. I wanted a beer, so that was going to have to do, though it didn't exactly feel like the sort of decadent excess one normally associates with beach life. In terms of the menu, there were a smattering of things that a vegan could eat, and I ordered the one with vegan in the name: the vegan balls. Based on the beans and such used to make them, they looked like I would like them. As for Gretchen, she ordered some sort of salad. But before the main course came out, Gretchen had ordered us a big plate of patacones. They're patties of fried mashed plantains, and came with beans and salsa. When used as the bread for open-face bean-cum-salsa sandwiches (the patacones are too stiff and brittle to fold over), this was a delicious meal all in itself. Had that been the meal, my review of Organico would be pretty good. I was initially even digging the atmosphere: a cute calico had had come in and announced her presence several times with meows and then lay down on the floor. And later two different dogs wandered through, including a cute little tan-colored non-nonsense guy I remembered seeing on the street out in front on Sunday.
But then a band started setting up, and as they did so they kept doing loud obnoxious mic checks. They were also bickering with each other (in English) as if they were all about to rage-quit (and as if we would care). Then one of them lit some incense for some reason, and from then on everything we were eating tasted like sandalwood. That was just as well, because the vegan balls would've otherwise tasted like playdough. And they weren't balls at all, they were little pancakes. Fortunately Organico had put a bottle of hot sauce on our table, but I was asking a lot of it to overcome both flavorless food and billowing clouds of incense. The vegan balls were served atop a big bed of salad, and I've never been much of a salad enthusiast. But I ate it all because it was probably good for me.
The highlight of our dinner at Organico was definitely this cat.
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