When in doubt, it’s time to head for the kitchen and onions

First you chop onions. That is usually how you start the preparation for cooking anything. It also, as food writer Alan Gopnik implies, puts you in a Buddha state of mind. That is you are in the here and now when you chop onions. That is probably why I retreat to my kitchen and start cooking with whatever I have the ingredients for at the damnedest times.

This has probably been the busiest week I will have all year. And so often I find that when I get home, I head for the kitchen and start chopping onions, even when I am not hungry. I am sure others have their time out of mind rituals that bring them back to their center – without overloading their refrigerators.

I started the week at a champagne brunch, invited by my longtime friend Darrylle and have come to the conclusion that champagne brunches are my favorite socials. First, I like champagne more than any other drink, and, second, by definition the brunch has to take place before noon, giving everyone a day to recover, and third, I run out of steam by afternoon and don’t like going out at night. Great idea: Champagne brunches for those of us in the third act of life who still want to eat, drink and meet new people or gather with old friends. Besides, a form of breakfast is my favorite meal and doctors are finally admitting that eggs are good for you.

On another day I had the pleasure of talking to members of the Newcomers Club. My subject was the culture of Costa Ricans (or why Ticos are not just like us). Since many of the members have been here at least two years, there was audience participation, so I learned something, and had the opportunity to know some of the women a little better than had I just lectured. This made the experience much more enjoyable for me, especially since I found them an exceptional group of women. Many of them have started their own businesses here.

I am aware more and more that women who come to Costa Rica are able to find their own power to follow a dream and create something or get involved in work they love because there is the opportunity to “do your thing.” (As we used to say). It also may be because the pond is small and tranquil, and, if you fail, probrecita, it’s no big thing. You just move on.

Speaking of women starting new ventures. The meeting of the Newcomers was held at Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano, which was my way station and safety haven in the first months after my arrival in Costa Rica.

I spent hours in the Mark Twain Library reading newspapers in English and going through the stacks, checking out books. Over the years I taught English there and once acted in a play in the Eugene O’Neill Theater honoring the 50th anniversary of The Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica.

Whatever my connection, I would go into the small café next to the library for lunch or a cup of coffee and one of the great desserts. The café was run by a North American, who, I think, came here as a young bride and who managed the café and was chief chef and baker.

The other day I couldn’t believe it but after 20 years, there was Pat Miranda overseeing the coffee and cinnamon buns for us, and she hasn’t changed a bit. One can work hard and find the fountain of youth in Costa Rica.

This week I also had lunch with a young man who is involved in a unique venture just emerging. It may turn out to be a new way to connect the world of people interested in learning what it is like to live abroad by getting first-hand information. That is all I feel qualified to say right now. But check with me in the future for more details.

Meanwhile, I have learned that you should let chopped onions (and garlic) sit for at least 10 minutes before cooking in order to get the full benefit from the healthy nutrients they both contain. I knew there was a good reason why I chopped onions.

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