The Cultural Cooking Class

Last year, Cory and Sam spent 5 months in Los Ramos developing cultural tourism programs for OutMore Adventures.  They made brochures and a website for Los Ramos Tourism.
This year, the indigenous community of Los Ramos is embracing rural tourism and opening their homes to tourists so that they may experience a slice of daily life on Ometepe Island.
Since it was time for me to exchange my lending library books in Los Ramos, I decided to take their cultural cooking class. Oh, what a wonderful experience it was!!

Francisco’s mother displays all the ingredients for nacatamales.

IMG_2349Then, it was time to head into the banana plantation to pick the best banana leaves for wrapping the nacatamales. Along the way, Ever shows us the Guanacaste seeds…beautiful for making jewelry. The fruit surrounding the Guanacaste seed is also used as soap…just add water..and voila..clean clothes.
IMG_2352Rebecca carries ten perfect banana leaves back to the kitchen.
one1Ever shows us the outside bark of the banana plant that will be used to wrap the nacatamales. It’s called burreo…I think! We need to soak it in water, then rip it into small strips, like ribbon.
IMG_2362On the way to the kitchen, we stop to gather some achote…the prickly little brown balls. Inside are tiny red seeds we grind for flavoring the masa ( flour) for the nacatamales.
IMG_2373We also discovered that the achote seeds make a fine, natural lipstick.
IMG_2376Next, we peel, dice, and slice all the fresh vegetables for the nacatamales.
one2It looks like we are really into slicing carrots.
IMG_2381Francisco’s mother adds the onions to the grease. She gave us a choice of vegetable oil or homemade rendered pig lard. Of course, we chose the homemade pig lard.
IMG_2386Tina adds the achote flavored chicken. Most nacatamales are made with pork, but they hadn’t slaughtered a pig, so we made chicken nacatamales. I’m just glad we didn’t have to slaughter the chickens. They slaughtered them early in the morning.
IMG_2390She prepares rice for a topping of the nacatamales. And, the most amazing thing..she’s wearing the apron my mother made for her 2 years ago.
one3The chicken is ready. Rebecca stirs the masa harina, while a one-eyed dog, and 2 baby chicks peck around the dirt floor. Little Lupita, Fatima’s daughter, enjoys helping her mother and grandmother cook.
IMG_2396Rebecca gets to load her nacatamale first.
one4Then, we wrap it in a banana leaf..kind of tricky..and add the strips of banana bark to hold it all together.
IMG_2421Cory’s nacatamale wins the grand prize! Plus, it must weigh a ton!
IMG_2431Into the pot of boiling water they go.
IMG_2433Meanwhile, grandpa serenades Cory and Tina with a love song. 
IMG_2440Watch out! Steaming, hot nacatamales are on the way!
IMG_2447Boy, are we hungry! They smell rico!
IMG_2448My perfect nacatamale.
one5After a trip to visit the school, deliver my books and new school supplies, and a side trip to see our friends the brick makers, we head up the long hill to catch the bus back to La Paloma. The end of a perfect nacatamale day!

Two links from my blog:
1. Want to make Nacatamales? Check out the recipe here.
2. Want to learn more about rural tourism? Check out my post here.

Tourism: Embrace the People, Not Just the Place

Our son, Cory, and his friend, Sam, developed and implemented tourism programs for the community of Los Ramos that mesh with responsible tourism practices on Ometepe Island. According to Sam:

Time here on the island is starting to wind down, and with that comes some amazing closure. Below is the brochure we have put together for the community of Los Ramos. Cory and I have worked side by side with the community helping them develop cultural based tourism programs. We have worked very hard to empower the community, and reveal to them how many amazing programs they are able to offer. The focus throughout has been to embrace who they are and what they stand for. Often times you will see tourism develop in a way that changes the heart and soul of communities just like this. Instead we were striving to keep the heart and soul, and have that be the focus of EVERY program. The development of tourism is inevitable, so why not do it in a way that can embrace the people and not just the place.

                                      Front page of brochure

                              Immerse, Explore, Experience

I am so proud of these young men. They have worked unselfishly to empower an indigenous community on Ometepe Island. From making nacatamales with the local cooks, to trail blazing, to wild dug-out canoe boat rides, to riding a bull for seven hours…they have done it all.This is responsible tourism at its finest! They came with a mission statement for their business, OutMore Adventures, and not once have they strayed from their path. Their philosophy of responsible tourism connects tourists with the local culture and traditions of an indigenous community, as well as providing income for Los Ramos. Hopefully, this hard-working community will never have to leave their beloved island to find work in Costa Rica or wash dishes and clean toilets for a foreign-owned resort.

Empower the people, not just the place! Their dreams are now a reality!