The art of food

If you’ve driven into San José from the east or wandered the mean streets of Barrio California, you’ve definitely seen Quiero Más, the artesanal pasta shop with a portly man on the sign. We stopped in yesterday during a walk, and I was reminded of what it’s like to buy food from someone who is truly passionate about it. A food nerd, if you well. A food artist.

As I walked up to the counter in the tiny shop, my husband had asked for some fresh ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, and he was already deep into a conversation with the friendly don Luis, who was listening to my husband’s plans for the ravioli and offering additional ideas. “I’m just giving you alternatives,” he said, careful not to step on a customer’s culinary toes. “But if you put them in soup, ahhh, the flour in the ravioli thickens the broth and…” His smile finished his sentence for him. He happily showed us the empanada wrappers he sells – I learned a new word, tapas, the squares of pastry dough you can buy fresh and then just spoon in your filling – as well as the spinach lasagna noodles, the ribbons of tagliatelle. The list goes on.

Don Luis wrapped up the ravioli in paper, as carefully as if they were a Christmas present. Because of this, we received it reverently and carried it with great care through the rest of our day, even though normally pasta is something we would sling into a supermarket cart and then onto a pantry shelf. It was the same feeling you get when you leave a farmer’s market bearing tomorrow’s papaya like a treasure.

I’ll be back to Quiero Más, because, well, I want more. So should you, if you live around here and love pasta. But my visit also reminded me of something bigger: that while some of us are trying to go back to small, simple, homemade and local, there are people like the folks at Quiero Más who never left. Here’s to all the people who were on the train of small family businesses, artisanal food processes, organic ingredients and exquisite specificity, long before the rest of us emerged from globalized superstores craving exactly those things.  Here’s to shops like this one that have somehow kept their doors open through decades of change, recessions and crises, and the crime spoken to by the barbed wire above the door. Here’s to the don Luises of the world who transform our dinner into an experience that shapes our whole day – conoisseurs of the art of food.

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).