Nicoya will celebrate the Annexation of Guanacaste by preparing foods based on corn– recipes that have survived the test of time. Favorites include chorreadas, sweet corn pancakes, and chicheme, a drink made from purple corn. Another dish that can’t be left out is arroz de maiz, a rice and corn stew. However, finding a place to buy the dish in the colonial city can be a challenge for visitors or new arrivals.
Making the dish is anything but simple, which is why few sell it. It involves a long process since before grinding the corn, the grain must be washed and “plucked,” as the grain has very small hairs that are called feathers. The flavor comes out while simmering the corn in chicken broth.
“The secret for a good arroz de maiz is home-grown chicken criollo and Mexican coriander,” says 74 year-old Jacinta Garcia.
When she was eight, her mother taught her to pluck the corn until not a single hair was left. She cooks the dish regularly for those who order it, and she hopes to have a kiosk in the park this year for the festivities.
On the days she cooks the dish,Garcia starts at 2 a.m. While boiling the chicken, she washes, grinds and cooks the corn until 8 a.m. She taught all of her daughters so that the tradition would not be lost. Her arroz de maiz is said to be so good that people lick their fingers.
In the La Cananga neighborhood, Fidelina Rosales Acosta and her family plan to have a party in their backyard. Those who visit on the day of the annexation will find a festive atmosphere, with the house filled to the brim and all kinds of typical food for sale, including a cup of arroz de maiz with a cuadrado plantain for ₡2,000 ($4).
Another place that will be selling arroz de maiz on that day is the Brotherhood of Nicoya (Cofradia de Nicoya), located 300 meters east of the Municipality. One of the women in charge of preparing traditional food is Cecilia Garcia, part of the group that has continued the tradition for more than 40 years to raise money with food sales.
“The recipe has been passed from generation to generation so that youths can become part of Nicoyan traditions and so the knowledge isn’t lost,” said Garcia. There, the small cup will cost ₡1,500 ($3) and a large one ₡2,000 ($4).
Many people come to the brotherhood in search of all manner of dishes based on corn. The day will be very festive, with decorations, marimba music and firecrackers all day.
Thanks to the work of these and other women, who start hauling firewood very early, July 25 is celebrated with special traditional foods, dishes that today are considered the perfect expression of Guanacaste’s cuisine.
For orders, call: Jacinta Garcia at 2686-6512 or Fidelina Rosales at 2686-4273.