Restaurante Vista al Mar by Alex Soderstrom

Three trips.

Three stops.

Three meals.

All at a roadside eatery known as Restaurante Vista al Mar—on the road between San Jose and the UGA Costa Rica campus.

When you pull into the gravel parking lot, it doesn’t look impressive. There is no front door, no windows, no drive through. It is a three-sided building with an open front and picnic-style benches serving as the dining area. One might even feel apprehensive when walking towards the counter set way in the back.

This place seems more like a truck stop than a restaurant.

Surely it can’t serve good food.

But you bet it does.

After joining the line and pointing at different food options and stumbling through your limited Spanish, an employee will hand you a plate of some of the savoriest food you can find in this country.

Typical food in Costa Rica is centered around the idea food does not have to be complex to be delicious. Rice, black beans, steamed vegetables and meat. In Costa Rica, however, these seemingly simple items are a culinary art form. Rice and beans are found in nearly every meal here, including gallo pinto, the national dish of Costa Rica. Seemingly just a mix of rice and beans thrown onto a plate every morning, the dish is actually one of the most natural and healthiest meals out there. It is cooked without processed food items and packs great nutritional value.

I have found this same type of dish across the country. Whether it is on campus, at a restaurant in San José or at lunch in Cartago. Some mix of rice, beans, veggies and meat pops up again and again. It is sometimes dressed up differently, the food is at its core the same. Worldwide, 17 percent of all carbon emissions are food related. At the same time, many countries, such as the U.S., have a nutrition poor diet with high medical costs. In Costa Rica, however, the diet, while simple, is nutritious and unprocessed.

We could learn much from the dietary habits of Costa Rica.

We could eat simpler.

We could cut down on our food waste and the energy used to create processed foods.

We could feed ourselves in a healthier, more sustainable way.

We could begin that process—with another meal at the Restaurante Vista al Mar

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