If concepts were to be associated with Costa Rica, a probable mean of the responses would include: the country of “Pura Vida”, the absence of an army, its “green” color – alluding to its biodiversity – and the happiest country in the world. I would add, from the perspective of an expatriate Costa Rican, that, if it is a country with a wealth of species, both plants and animals, a country that enjoys good living and that there is a significant investment of its GDP in education.
Costa Rican Cuisine
There is no objective and differentiating mention of culinary culture, despite the fact that there is an identity of its own. The preamble to the cuisine experience is globalization. A marked tendency to “look out”. Of course, a phenomenon in which all countries participate. This is the starting point from which the idea – reality – that Costa Rican gastronomy is one of the central axes of our culture begins to develop. More importantly, it is one of the axes that links Tico society, despite its contrasts. Concepts, which, although they were already practiced in other places, Costa Rica still had to plan the movements to join this framework.
“We have a debt with our ancestors” – Alfredo Echeverría
During this period of production and organization of resources – human, economic, private and public, etc. – contact is made with bibliographic material from the National Institute of Biodiversity: “Edible Plants of Central America”. This compendium of the autochthonous species of the region served as the scientific foundation for this National plan.
In 2011, the National Plan for Sustainable and Healthy Costa Rican Gastronomy was released for the first time. A proposal from civil society – that is, of a non-State nature – with the aim of rescuing local culinary traditions, using native and endemic ingredients – as distinctive – of sustainable origin. A methodology that is responsible for linking the country’s resources, capitalizing on their size to unify them more efficiently. Understanding this union as a way of joining forces as equals, in the absence of hierarchies. An inclusive system capable of enhancing the historical value of gastronomic idiosyncrasy and, also, capable of innovating with identity.
The PNGCSS (National Plan for Sustainable and Healthy Costa Rican Gastronomy) becomes a tool capable of contributing to horizontal socioeconomic development. The country’s idea of “perennial green” and “biodiversity protection” applied to the livelihood production chain. The new norm: seek responsible agricultural processes, accompanied by an evolution of “accessible consumption” of local products for society.
In this way, new dimensions are awarded to the concept of “gastronomy”. Food becomes the common denominator, but it is not limited to culinary practices. Consequently, this new concept opens the doors to other areas of science and productivity, turning it into a multisectoral movement of national scope.
For the year 2015, as a result of the growth and exponential acceptance of the National Plan for Sustainable and Healthy Costa Rican Gastronomy, marks the moment on which the government of Costa Rica declares it of public interest. From this point, the volume of presence of elements with a Costa Rican character in the gastronomic offer increases. Even the school canteen service is modified with a sustainable and healthy culinary proposal based on these values.
At present, the gastronomic offer that responds to the “new Costa Rican cuisine” is more easily observed. A growing trend that promises permanence. However, it is not a new concept per se. It is the fruit of cultural appropriation. It is the fruit of educational and communication work. It is the beginning of what can be a first world cuisine. In the words of Don Alfredo Echeverría “We have a debt with our ancestors”; a debt that will be paid in the short term due to the joint effort.