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Cuisine of Costa Rica Aims to Improve International Image

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Regional dish in Costa Rica.

Regional dish in Costa Rica.

“Eat Well, Travel Better.” Such is the motto of the World Food Travel Association (WFTA), an organization that is considered the leading authority on food tourism. For more than 10 years, the WFTA has organized numerous food tourism trade conferences in various parts of the world, including Canada, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, South America, and many others. Costa Rica has been conspicuously left out of the WFTA’s radar, but this may soon change thanks to a gastronomical effort by Kansas State University.

Costa Rica does not have the greatest reputation among foodies and culinary travelers. This regrettable travel fact can be pinpointed to the dubious gastronomy of the Central Valley and its ongoing proliferation of fast-food restaurants and junk food purveyors. Take, for example, this early 2014 TripAdvisor review of the Peace Lodge in Vara Blanca (not far from the Poas and Barva volcanoes, right on the Alajuela-Heredia provincial border):

“Gorgeous rooms with terrible food”

Pretty isolated location. Food is terrible. Ate at all the restaurants and was constantly excessively over priced for pretty bad quality food.

[…] minimum 30 dollars a meal for over cooked steaks and no sides and dry fish.

Would recommend to stay for the gorgeous rooms alone but be prepared to venture elsewhere to eat.

Costa Rica does have significant culinary potential, but reviews such as the one above scream for an emergency intervention by the WFTA. Thankfully for Costa Rica, the Department of Hospitality Management and Dietetics at Kansas State University in the United States has been taking a lead in this regard with workshops, presentations and even faculty-led trips. Take, for example, this recent description of a culinary workshop:

Allan Ortiz, a Costa Rican chef and culinary educator, will demonstrate how to prepare Hearts of Palm Ceviche Accompanied with Avocado and Pineapple, Coconut Rice and Beans with Curry Fish and other specialties from the Central American country at the 10th annual Culinary Enhancement Workshop.

Paola Paez, professor of nutrition at the University of Costa Rica, will visit Kansas State University to share her knowledge on Costa Rican culture, cuisine, nutrition and food safety.

“This gives our students an opportunity to learn about another culture from the perspective of foods and nutrition,” said Jeannie Sneed, head of the hospitality management and dietetics department, co-sponsors of the event with the Office of International Programs. “Costa Rica is a beautiful country with an agricultural richness. It produces many fruits and vegetables that we don’t see in the U.S., and the fresh fish is incredible.”

Later this month, the University of Kansas will visit Costa Rica on a culinary excursion. This is a solid first step in improving the country’s image in the international culinary stage.

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