The lost art of cooking sea snails
Why I love Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Sundays in Costa Rica are a family day. The country shuts down and all of the streets become vacant. Nobody works and everything is closed except for the ‘Supers’ where you can still buy your food and of course, the Sunday staple – beer. Here in Santa Teresa on the coast of Costa Rica, Sundays are the day when most families load up their cars with snacks, toys, a cooler full of beer and they head to beach for a family day of relaxing in the sun. Sundays are my favourite day in Costa Rica because it is the day where you really get to see Costa Rican culture in full effect. My Sundays are usually spent driving up and down the coast with my husband as we hunt for new beaches, hidden waves to surf or new coves to fish in. More often than not, we don’t find any secret surf spots but instead, our day turns into one where we get to know Costa Rica, interact with its people and experience something genuinely Costa Rican. It’s fantastic! I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my lazy Sunday afternoons.
This past Sunday afternoon was no exception. My husband and I were wondering around a secluded, rocky beach with our heads down, trying not to blunder and fall on the jagged rocks. As we rounded a bend and peered around the corner, I was stuck by the sound of children laughing and giggling. It was two little boys, probably ages 5 and 7, playing naked on the beach at the point where a stream met the ocean. Although this moment of pure innocence struck me, it wasn’t actually what I will always remember about this day. What came next around the very same bend from which my husband and I had just come was a blue ribbon and pink shoes. As I squinted into the sun to make out the shape before me, I realized that it was an older woman perhaps about 55 years old, with a shovel in one hand and a pail in the other, and she was hunched over the rocks digging. As it turns out, this woman was the children’s aunt. As I approached her, I quickly realized what she was doing. She was digging in the rocks and filling her pail with large sea snails. Sea snails? I was fascinated so naturally, I went over to talk with her. The sea snails were to be their lunch. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, right as we were talking, right in front of me, she started collecting sticks and making a small fire. She was going to cook the pot of snails right there on the beach and ta-da, the family had their lunch. Absolutely wonderful!
Dangling off the woman’s waistband were three large clothespins. This is how the family was going to eat their lunch. She explained to me that once the sea snails were cooked – in salt water from the sea mind you – they would each pluck the snails out of their shells with their clothespins and eat them over rice. Amazing! A true Costa Rica meal forged from the sea and the beaches of Santa Teresa. I feel truly blessed that I get to witness old traditions such as these and all of Costa Rican culture first hand every day here in Santa Teresa. That is why I love Costa Rica!