Cooking is a way of once again savoring recipes from other places and times. The kitchen can be a museum of living memories, if we pay attention to the measurements of each ingredient.
The kitchen’s treasures shouldn’t be kept under lock and key. That’s why The Voice of Guanacaste has launched an audiovisual project to rescue traditional gastronomy, with support from the Ministry of Culture and Youth (Spanish acronym: MCJ).
We met with five Guanacastecan women who have spent years preserving secrets, ingredients and recipes to share them at the table. Their techniques came about due to curiosity and the attention they paid to the people who introduced them to the kitchen as children.
Distrust is the appetizer before oblivion. To Magdalena Angulo, one of these women who revives culinary recollection, not sharing a recipe is letting it disappear over time. They let us see and hear each flavor so we don’t lose them.
Who are these women and what do they share with us?
Ponche, by Magdalena Angulo:
Magdalena opens the doors and windows of her kitchen in the Condega neighborhood, in Liberia, so that we can learn about ponche. It’s a drink that contrasts fresh milk and eggs with lime zest and sugar cane liquor. Ponche was served on Saturdays, when people were more “relaxed,” Magdalena recalls. Ponche tastes of leisure, of not being busy.
2 liters of cow’s milk
Cinnamon to taste
Lime to taste
½ liter of sugar cane liquor (or your preferred liquor)
½ cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of vanilla (optional)
Contact: +506 8617-7852
Atolillo, by Margarita Rodriguez:
Margarita teaches us how to make atolillo at her house in Santa Cruz. It’s a sweet dessert that combines rice and sugar. The steps that Margarita shows us are the “holy word” of her mom, from a time when sweets were only made at home. Preparing atolillo in a bad mood can make it thin, and not sharing the recipe can make it “dissolve” from memory, says Magdalena.
2 cups of water to soak the rice
1 cup of rice
2 liters of milk
½ cup of evaporated milk
4 tablespoons of condensed milk
Cloves and cinnamon to taste
Vanilla to taste
1¼ cups of sugar
Contact: +506 8866-6024
Chicasquil Enyucados, by Marielos Carrillo:
This Nicoyan woman remembers the farm where she grew up as a place where clothes and shoes were lacking, but where the variety of food was wonderful and satisfying. She introduced us to her technique for enyucados with leaves from the chicasquil tree to “rescue our roots.” The chicasquil leaf may go unnoticed by the novice eye, but it becomes a Guanacastecan icon when it passes through the hands of this Nicoyan, who has been giving it away for years so that more families in her community can grow it in her patios.
One kilogram of cassava
800 grams of beef
115 grams of butter
500 grams of liquefied chicasquil
50 grams of onion
50 grams of sweet chili
15 grams of salt
a squeeze of lemon
Ten grams of dry spices (dried basil, pepper, oregano)
Contact: +506 8678-5227
Perrerreque, by Mercedes Martínez:
For Mercedes Martínez, from Gamalotal de Nicoya, the recipe for perrerreque begins with going to the milpa to choose tender corn. A run-of-the-mill cornbread wouldn’t carry the collection of flavors, techniques, and textures of country life that Mercedes recounts as she stirs the hominy, dry cheese, sour milk, custard, and sugar. Mercedes makes it clear that Guanacaste cuisine is synonymous with freshness and closeness to the ingredients.
Two dozen corn
Half a kilogram of dry cheese
Two teaspoons of baking powder
A cup of custard
Two cups of sour milk (the recipe does not call for milk if the corn is very tender)
Two and a half cups of sugar
Two butter bars
Contact: +506 8806-8979
Sweet white corn tortillas, by Nelsy Ruiz:
“One is not going to be eternal; one must leave the seed”, acknowledges Nelsy Ruiz, in La Cruz. She shows us the clay oven of her restaurant, Comidas Típicas Guanacastecas Nelsita, to show us her infallible method so that our sweet white corn tortillas do not burn. One of the many seeds that Doña Nel preserves from Guanacaste cuisine so that it continues to flourish.
Two kilograms of white corn
A kilogram of smoked cheese
one kilogram of sugar
two sticks of margarine
Four tablespoons of butter to grease the pans
500 grams of custard or sour milk
Two tablespoons of baking soda
Two tablespoons of baking powder
Contact: +506 8495-3340
The Ministry of Culture and Youth (MCJ) has documented Guanacaste gastronomy as part of the cultural heritage of all of Costa Rica. This heritage is preserved in books but, without putting them into practice, the recipes taste like paper and ink. As Magdalena, Margarita, Marielos, Mercedes and Nelsy show us, this heritage lives when it is harvested, prepared and served at the table.
Above all, paying attention to these recipes is essential for the simplest but most important reason: every Guanacaste dish is delicious!