It’s a scientific fact: you can’t have a really bad day if you start it with gallo pinto.
I’ve had some bad days during which I’ve eaten a casado or a chifrijo or even delicious fresh fruit. But there’s something about magic about Costa Rica’s national breakfast dish. I ate it pretty much ever morning when I was an intern at La Nación and the lucky recipient of doña Hannia’s formidable cooking skills at my homestay, and that was just maybe the best summer of my life. Now, I eat it just rarely enough that it always feels special: I’m out of town, or it’s one of those mornings when my husband declares, “I’m going to make pinto.”
You need leftover rice. Many people over the years have explained to me that it is a Cardinal Sin to make fresh rice and then put it straight into pinto, because it’s not firm enough and won’t be able to absorb the flavors without getting mushy. You also need black beans, onion, sweet peppers, salt, pepper, cumin and, unless you hate it, culantro.
And Salsa Lizano. It really isn’t true that ticos “put it on everything,” but you definitely need it for pinto, both in the dish and then on hand in case it needs a little more on the plate. (Anyone have a favorite recipe? I looked but honestly got overwhelmed. There are a lot of techniques out there.)
You can fry gallo pinto in lots of fat, cover it in natilla and surround it with bacon or other heavy foods, but pinto itself is perfectly light and nutritious, so it does belong on a Wellness Wednesday. As we enter the season of a slightly slower pace and more festive feel, I’m going to aim to eat pinto just a bit more often. It’s almost the time of year when we get to ease up on our mornings just a touch, sip that coffee a little longer, and look forward to a day that has already been blessed by the best breakfast on the planet.
I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter).