I consider myself to be a pretty good cook. There isn’t much I won’t attempt to make especially when asked by my kids or husband for their birthday dinners. In the past my son has kept me challenged by asking for fish tacos (sound worse than they are), for duck a l’orange, black forest chocolate cake done with Kirsch and german chocolate, orange chiffon cake, tres leches cake. These are just the ones I can remember that I have done over the years. I have hosted a birthday party for my dad, with 75 guests in attendance – pretty much all food made with love by my husband and myself. When my daughter got married I volunteered to make the wedding cake – this came about after she told me how much it would cost to have one made. Then she proceeded to tell me she wanted 150 individual cakes done with fondant. My first question was – “What’s fondant?” I tell you this so you get the idea that I am not afraid to cook and try new foods or recipes in the kitchen.
When I came to Belize though, I felt like I needed to learn to cook all over again. There are some foods I can get – chicken, rice, pasta, spaghetti sauce, carrots, onions, broccoli, watermelon, banana, oranges, (apples are $1 bz each – $0.50 cdn).
So during my first few days here, getting confused about the contents in the grocery stores, one of the first things I cooked was macaroni and cheese, with canned tuna and broccoli. This is not a local dish, I am sure, but it was something I was familiar with. The packages here in the stores are written mostly in Spanish, even though the official language of the country is English. And this has made it more difficult when it comes to cooking local dishes. I can look up the recipes and see what the ingredients are, but I can’t find them because I don’t speak or read Spanish. I don’t want to stick to macaroni and cheese, but I do find that I fall back on the old standby fairly often.
One of the next meals that I cooked was potatoes, chicken (with jerk seasoning) and peas and corn from a can. I am not a canned vegetable lover but in those first few days and weeks as I was getting to know and understand the grocery shopping concept here I was using what I knew. I could get these items in the grocery store and I hadn’t become familiar with or comfortable with the market yet. Frozen vegetables are non-existent here – not sure why.
Not one of the best ways to start eating in a new country with nobody to each or explain what to do but enough time has gone by now that I am ready to start preparing more local, authentic dishes. Foods like Johnny Cakes, Breadfruit Pizza, Sapodilla Pudding – these will be on my menu in the coming weeks. Oh, and be sure to watch for lessons on how to make Chocolate Chicken.
What have been your experiences with eating in a new country?