Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Way Things Are: "Food"/Restaurants

Here are some random things I want to remember about finding food, avoiding "food" and getting food. Even if you avoid eating out (seriously recommended) you still have to eat something which involves finding and purchasing "food."
- If you want cheddar cheese instead of plastic American cheese or squeeze (they call it "liquid" here - look at the El Meson menu board) you have to ask for "Papa de queso." Why cheddar is reserved for  potatoes I will never know. Meson, Subway and sometimes panaderias have it but you have to ask for it by name.
- Expect to wait in line to order, then get your food cafeteria (love the line) style, and then go get in line again to pay. El Meson and Martin's BBQ let you pay at the time.
- If you are sitting down expect that out of 4 people at least 1 order will be messed up or not come at all. If you have another day to wait for it to be fixed do that, otherwise JUST EAT IT. It doesn't matter if you ask ahead of time for what you want, for example setas on a pizza. "Si" will be the answer even when they don't have them. They will just make what they have.
-Expect that you and your friends will not be eating together. Remember though, you should feel lucky you get anything at all.
- Think carefully about the roadside trucks. Is there running water? Is this the same vat of roadside oil that has been sitting semi covered in the rain for weeks or months? Is there a BATHROOM for the food handler to use or does he do it in the woods and return to make your sandwich? Is the big pile of chemical laced pallets what they are using to make those yummy bacalitos? Is the smokey flavor of those e coli chickens from car exhaust? If you have to eat there eat fried. I don't think salads (even though they are just lettuce and a single slice of tomato) are the way to go. Is there only a cooler for refrigeration?
- TheTrifecta. Is there EVER running water, soap, AND toilet paper in one place? Ever? Have you EVER seen a Fourfecta? (water, soap, toilet paper and paper towels)
- Why is every vegetable brown and hairy? Why are there red grapes WITH seeds in them when ones without seeds exist? Why do a lot of the fruits have nasty fibers, seeds or hairs that require spitting out in front of people or watching other people suck or spit things out? What do you even do with the white pig skin or stomach chunks in the stores? Why is everything white or brown?
- Is there a menu? The Cheesecake Shoppe, which has pretty good "papa de queso" pizza has NO menu. They do however have food: ball of bread with oily chorizo and cheese chunks, followed by pizza, followed by cheesecake. They also have 50 imported beers, are at least at one point they had one of each - twice they did not have the one I wanted so I gave up and just took what they had.
- Are there PRICES? There is a place I call Area 51 that has some unusual things (for here). First you have to find it in the industrial area, then go into the mystery rooms and then scavenge through boxes yourself to bring things to the register and see what your "cash only" bill is.
- Another oddity is where things are in the supermarket. In the diabetic section you can find a "better" type of peanut butter (not Jiff or Skippy) but the #2 ingredient is sugar. You can usually find something other than Wonder Bread (here "Holsom" makes it - how's that for a play on words) if you can locate it - rye, wheat and french baguettes are usually in the freezer no where near the bread section. In the Aquadilla Econo rye bread is near the waffles, sourdough and NY bagels and other better breads are in a freezer next to the beer at the aisle end near the deli. If you want coffee - some of it is in a section where you would expect it but if you want a better selection where you look depends on the store you are in. In Mr. Special it is under lock and key where you check out. Sometimes they will point there and ask if you want some. Sometimes it isn't locked up but is near the registers where the manager is. Aguadilla Econo trusts people more I guess and has it all where it should be!
- Why is there cabbage on my sandwich? Raw cabbage is kind of nasty and  I ordered a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. At least have the photo and description say "cabbage." Why are there french fries inside my bean and potato burrito? Why are there french fries with Chinese food?
- The most important thing is that if you see something unusual (curry paste, licorice, honeycup mustard) buy it ALL. There are no guarantees you will see it again. Tempeh was at the Adventist Store along with bulk nuts and now it has been a year that they haven't had either. Bummer.
- In summary, Puerto Rico is not a "foody" is a nightmare and a scavenger hunt.


Linda said...

WOW, you guys eat in bad places when you do go out!! I would never eat in those fast food places but have got great foods in panaderias and luckily Rincon has great GREAT restaurants. That is funny about the cabbage though, a new twist on a BLT.
Probably I'm not looking at it through your eyes. You two are very athletic and probably eat for fuel where we are pretty much the opposite and are foodies. I can honestly say the last time at Subway was maybe 10 years ago, McDonalds?? gosh.. over 10 years. We tried Le Meson when in the mall once. We left most of the food and ate bananas on the way home. Next time you are in Rincon go to Edwards Food CoOp. They have lots of American type foods and a fairly decent organic section (expensive though).
I have to say you got me thinking about roadside pincho wagons. I love those places and I think I'll just put it out of my mind for now ;-)

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Acceptable/good places to eat out - L'Auxierre in San German, Royal Isabela, Villa Montana, Cocina Creativa. When you are caving in the central area there isn't anywhere. Everywhere else is comida criolla. Fast food isn't food. I wouldn't say any food here is "great." 110 Thai is spotty and Ode...I make thai food better. No we don't eat crap or carbs unless we have to. We came from the land of fresh fish, shellfish, vegetables - it is all what you are accustomed to. katrina

Linda said...

I agree with you about Ode. La Copa Llena is fantastic though, and they were wonderful when they were at Casa Islena. Lucky 13 for breakfast is killer, nothing else is earth shattering but there are ok things in Rincon. Pools sushi is very good. I do like Sunsets in Aguada on the water. They have really good Puerto Rican food.
There is a new restaurant in Rincon that is sort of word of mouth. A thai woman and her gringo husband I think. It has no sign, you just have to find someone who has been there. I hear it is fresh and awesome

Cassie said...

We haven't had too much trouble with food here and have found most of what we usually eat...though, we haven't been cooking much yet since we don't have a full kitchen. But yes, Edward's Coop has just about everything you could want and he will order anything he doesn't have immediately available. Super friendly and short lines too.

We haven't gone out to dinner too extensively, so I can't really say much on that except that I haven't been too disappointed.

It probably does depend on what you are used to and/or expecting. So far, we have been happy even if we are just eating rice and beans! :-)

I do think your homecooked food is delish though, so you must be doing something right in your scavenger hunts!

Anonymous said...

You don't get out much. L'Auxerre closed back in February.

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Anonymous - Eating out is only social or out of desperation (after caving). L'Auxerre closed? That says it all. K

sunpup said...

Well, there are some differences in locally sold food alnog the roadways which reflect tastes here which tend to meat and starches. That does not mean that you cannot find most of the big chain restaurants (not just fastfood which are ubiquitous) found in the states. Sure you are not going to find the all-you-can-eat king crab or lobster, but a lot of things make up for that like the lechoneras where you can get roast pig any day--excellent.
I take issue with the cleanliness problem. About seven years ago even the roadside stands had to be responsible to the health department and inspections. I once operated a restaurant here, so I know how strenuous and thorough these inspections are.
The supermarket chains are really no different than in the states and carry most anything you want. Of course they carry items that favour local tastes, but almost any brand or item purchased in a stateside market is here too.
I do wish we had fresher vegetables--the kinds that grow in northern climates--but we are a tropical island and these things have to be flown in. There are, however, all of the fresh tropical vegetables and fruits which cannot be grown north. It is no big deal.
PR is not some isolated third world place as some comments seem to imply. Yes, it is unique in many favourable ways, but it is also very recognisable as USA.
Food is good, safe, and of great variety here whether you shop in markets or eat out. Come see for yourself.

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Sunpup - Meat, starches, all white meals are not my thing. I also don't do hamburgers and only do pizza if there is no other real choice. Not a fan of fried food or fast food either. What do I like? Thai, India, real Mexican, raw, vegan, vegetables without sauces and no heavy cheeses or dairy. No sugary quesos or donuts or processed stuff. I like fresh vegetables and fruits. Not American chains. I like sushi. Here in the west there are no choices period and nothing is good enough to drive several hours to the metro area to get. Sanitation? Maybe it is better in the north or east but most bathrooms I've been in are missing either soap, toilet paper, water or paper towels and that is where workers go too. Roadside? Don't get me started - no running water, a cooler with ice for refrigeration, no where for cooks to go to the bathroom and pallets used as fuel to cook things over. NOT sanitary and we all know that rules/laws no matter how strict don't matter because there is NO ENFORCEMENT! If you like the food here it is because that is what you like to eat. Doesn't work for me! I just want a salad that isn't ice berg lettuce with a single slice of tomato on about a nut, a cheese crumble and no mayo ketchup? A fresh mushroom, a bean, a fruit bit? K