Costa Rica Strikes Back in Gallo Pinto War

January 14, 2005

IN the third battle of the cultural foodwar between Nicaragua and Costa Rica,Costa Rica struck back after its 2003 defeatand created the world’s largest gallo pinto(beans-and-rice) dish Sunday.Costa Rica first made the world’slargest gallo pinto and earned a mention inthe Guinness Book of World Records inAugust 2003, weighing in at 970 pounds,but barely two weeks later, Nicaragua celebratedits Sept. 15 Independence Daywith a bigger gallo pinto, weighing 1,200pounds (TT, Sept. 19, 2003).Thanks to rice producer Arroz Imperio,on Jan. 9 Costa Rica retaliated in what punditspredict has degenerated into an allfood fight, cooking 1,825 pounds of beansand 3,042 pounds of rice, for a gallo pintothat weighed 4,867 pounds. Imperio representativesare in the process of getting thedish registered as a world record.FOR the event, the west end of PaseoColón, near La Sabana Park in San José,was closed from morning to evening while12 chefs and 32 students from the Inter-American Hoteliers University cooked upapproximately 15,000 plates of the traditionaldish from 10 a.m. to the mid-afternoon.In two huge steel pans, one nearly 10feet in circumference, the other five feet,the cooks mixed up the beans, rice, andherbs and spices – cilantro, bell pepper andothers – that give the dish its LatinAmerican flavor. They stirred and tossedthe rice and beans with huge, oar-like utensils,maneuvering the steel paddles withtwo hands and a strong back.The cooks used red beans, which aretraditionally used in the Nicaraguan versionof the dish, instead of the black beanscommonly used in Costa Rican gallo pintos.Why? It was an “I told you so” toNicaraguans who say Costa Rican gallopinto is always made of black beans,according to Imperio’s marketing managerAdám Herrera, who organized the event.PLATES – 2,100 of them – sold for¢300 ($0.65) each. Proceeds and the rest ofthe food went to the kitchens of the Path ofHope Association (Asociación Camino deEsperanza), which gives away 27,000meals every month in poor neighborhoodsaround the country.Imperio raised ¢630,000 ($1,372) forthe association, plus nearly 13,000 platesof leftovers.THE combination of rice and beans,known as moro in the DominicanRepublic; congri throughout theCaribbean; casamiento in El Salvador;Arroz seco in Peru; and riceanbean in theeastern Costa Rican province of Limón,where it is flavored with coconut milk, is afavorite dish and source of national pridefor Latin American countries.The fight to make the biggest batch hasthus far been limited to Costa Rica andNicaragua, the only two countriespompous enough to each claim publiclythat they invented a dish as ubiquitous asrice and beans.

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