Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gallo Pinto... It's what's for dinner (and breakfast and lunch)

Eating lunch today, I realized that it was my 12th straight meal of Gallo Pinto. Yup, that means breakfast, lunch, and dinner for four days straight. I felt that deserved a blog post. The strange thing is, I'm really not that tired of it. I mean come on, many Nicaraguans have been eating Gallo Pinto for every meal for their entire life, so I feel like I'm in no position to complain.

The name, Gallo Pinto, literally means "spotted rooster." How it got that name is unclear, but it has made it's way into being the national dish of both Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Some say that it got its name because the rice, after being cooked with the beans, kind of looks like a white rooster with red spots. That explanation is a bit boring, so I'm going with the one that I learned the other day: a guy named Juan had a huge spotted rooster (gallo pinto) that he was very proud of. He went around the entire neighborhood bragging about how big his gallo pinto was and invited everyone in the barrio to come to a party that weekend because he planned to kill and eat it and wanted to share with everyone. On the night of the party, the whole neighborhood came to Juan's house to eat the gallo pinto. Now, this was a really, really big spotted rooster, but it certainly was not big enough to feed an entire barrio. So Juan, in a panic and not wanting anyone to leave hungry, threw together all the rice and all the beans he had into a huge frying pan and cooked it with oil until the rice started turning red. Needless to say, the neighborhood people were not very happy to be eating rice and beans when they had been promised a big gallo pinto. Everyone left in a bad mood, and Juan soon became the laughing stock of the neighborhood. For weeks after that night, people passing his house in the street would sarcastically shout out, "Hey, Juan, that gallo pinto you gave us last night was delicious!" The name, apparently, stuck and people have been calling rice and beans cooked in that manner "Gallo Pinto" ever since.

The stuff is really not that bad. Once described as "the perfect combination of carbs and protein," it is almost revered in Nicaraguan culture, where people never seem to get tired of eating it. A Nicaraguan friend of mine once explained, "Sometimes we eat rice and beans; sometimes we eat beans and rice; but on special occasions -- we eat Gallo Pinto."

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