We are attempting to cook many of the things we often enjoyed cooking back in California and whew! Can anyone say, “Challenge?” I gotta tell ya’ anyone who has cooked with me knows I don’t ‘wing-it’ well when it comes to baking! Today we are preparing a few things for a pot luck dinner party we are going to tomorrow night . We’ve decided to bring Jambalaya and cornbread. As we are cooking we are discovering that we lack a few essentials for baking. Mainly Measuring cups and Measuring spoons! So given the fact that we couldn’t find our usual “Marie Calanders” Boxed cornbread mix, we decided,”how hard can it be to just make it from scratch? HA! HA! First we needed to gather all the ingredients, Hmmmm. We decided this was a good excuse to make a trip down the hill to David. The Jambalya calls for shrimp, chicken,pork sausage and tasso (which a smoked hunk of ham). So we were hoping to possibly find a good fish monger and possibly a butcher in David. I decided the perfect person to call on would be my friends Joel and Kris who live in David and have spent a lot of time exploring . I thought they might be able to give us directions but Kris had an even better idea…Why don’t we go with you and then have lunch together! She’s the BEST!!
We’ve been here nearly 7 weeks and we are discovering little essentials that we need like a cookie sheet and a whisk ,a box cheese grater, I am in dire need of a lint roller, the cat hair is killing me! We also needed to pick up a small cooler to keep in the car for transporting perishables from David , it’s about a 45 minute drive back up here to Boquete from David so if we go to Price Mart (Similar to Costco) it’s just good to have a cooler to keep things fresh. Scott wanted to pick up some sort of big pot for cooking Goulash, preferably one that could go in the oven. and we needed some little clip-thingys for clipping open bags like chips so they stay fresh. We were also keeping our eyes open for erasers for school, those silly little erasers on the end of the pencils are just not cutting it! Some silly things that are mostly just little creature comforts that just make our lives a tiny bit more comfortable. Most of these things could also have been found right here in Boquete but exploring David was on our list of things to do . So we decided to stop in at the “Do it” store in David. This is Panama’s version of Home Depot. I had a little chuckle over the very loud music they had playing in the store, very similar to the teeny-bopper stores in the states where I used to shop with Mariah. Has anyone ever been in those Hollister stores? Well, imagine that loud music in a Home Depot! Very funny!
We felt very lucky to have found all the little gadgets on our list in one store. We hear many people say that if you get all the things on your list in one day then it’s a good day! So we had a good gadget collecting day! So after visiting the Do-it store we headed over to Kris and Joel’s house as arranged to go and do some exploring in Their neck of the woods. They live in a very typical Panamanian neighborhood in a cute little house. It’s really a very nice area and they have developed great relationships with all the nieghbors right around them. Here is where I have to tell you that Kris and Joel are two of the most positive, kind, generous people you would ever want to know! They are a living example of what happens when you put good energy out into the world, you get back what you put out. And spending the day with them was just such a fun way to experience David. Every place they took us , begining with the fish place in Pedrigal, and then even just sitting in their backyard enjoying an amazing lunch (the neighbor in the back of them came up to the fence with a big bag of limes from her tree and she had noticed that they had company so she wanted to share her limes with us!) , they introduced us to each and every person who helped us everyplace we went today. They were not just cordial but genuinely friendly and It was very touching to witness the relationships they are forming with each person they come into contact with in their community. They even introduced us to the guy working the meat counter at their local Canista Basica grocery store, Oliver! He was pleased to see them and to meet us, their friends. I cant think of a better way to learn about a new city than to go with people who have a genuine adoration for all that is around them and these two do love their new home. I don´t think I mentioned that they have live here in Panama, in David for about 9 months now, they moved from Florida and have never looked back.
So back to my telling of our hunt for all the ingredients for our Jambalaya and cornbread. First stop, the fish monger. Wow! They had plenty of fresh fish and not bad prices at all. Kris and Joel bought a whole Red Snapper at $ 2.00 per lb. She told the guy who was cleaning it that she planned to make fish soup so she would take the ¨whole¨thing, head and all! It was great to watch them prepare that fish, they really know how to use a sharp machete! Scales were flyin´ and who knows what else! We picked up a little corvina which is sea bass and some fresh caught shrimp, perfect for our Jambalaya. I asked Kris how she found the fish guy because he is located in such a tucked away location, we never would have found him with their guidance. She said she found him through a friend from her tennis club, his daughters father in law knows the guy! Funny! Next stop the Carne guy! We were hoping to find a butcher , we needed a bit of Tasso, which is a smoked pork but this guy sells strictly Beef . It’s great to know where to find good beef so we felt it was not time wasted at all. Then Kris needed to get a few things from their Canista Basica, so that was our next destination.
The last stop was the produce market right on the main road to Boquete, right in front of the REY ( a big grocery store). I’m sure everyone knows the place, we have driven past it many times and wanted to stop. We were able to find most of the produce we needed for our recipes and got to meet the proprietor there who was very happy to see Kris and Joel. One of the really cool things about this little produce stand is that we noticed many people just pulled over in their cars and rolled down the window and the guys who worked there just gave the customer in the car everything they needed. Nothin’ like a drive up produce market! Gotta love it!
The last stop was Kris and Joel’s house for a fish lunch. We had fresh pineapple and papaya, A cucumber and tomato salad, chicken tamales and broccoli. A fresh meal made with all the great things we had bought today on our whirlwind through David. We said our goodbyes and made a couple more stops to gather a few more things we needed. We weren’t able to find buttermilk and I think Cayenne pepper doesn’t exist here. but otherwise the majority of our ingredients were in the bag. We were ready to head back up to our nice cool mountaintop home. These two Native Californians are not cut out for the humidity and heat in David. Many people are not at all effected by the heat but we are much more comfortable in the cooler climate up in Boquete. Whew!
So we got all our newly acquired ingredients all prepped for tomorrows pot luck. All the veggies for the Jambalaya are chopped up and stored in zip-lock bags in the fridge and our homemade corn bread is cooling as I’m typing. We learned how to make buttermilk, it turns out we just had to add lemon juice to the milk and let it sit for 15 min, and voila! Buttermilk!! Who knew?? And in the absence of any type of measuring utensils we had to use a coffee cup to try to guess at how much a cup was and Scott eyeballed the tablespoons and teaspoons! Yikes!! To tell you the truth, I’m shocked that it turned out!! (All those little things like measuring cups we didn’t really want to purchase because we have it all packed up in our container just waiting to be shipped over here.) We wanted to have everything ready to go because tomorrow Scott has his first golf game arranged with a couple of college gals from his class. I’ll let you know how badly they kick his but! Ha!Ha! I’ll be enjoying driving around in the golf cart and hopefully getting some reading in. Our Potluck is at 3:00 , we should be home from the golf club by about 1 or 2 . This adventure of figuring out how to cook here is pretty fun. Learning how to use a few different ingredients and not exactly the same tools is a process and not unlike learning the language, Poco a Poco, we’ll soon get it down.