Existing Member?

La vida loca! Wished you were there? We did, so here we are on our big adventure! A year in central America, to make sense of this vida loca...

The egg detective and other stories... part 2

COSTA RICA | Tuesday, 16 September 2008 | Views [1253]

Bandito (the rat catcher) warming his bum on the cob oven

Bandito (the rat catcher) warming his bum on the cob oven

Wow, it´s ages since I wrote part 1! Dan and I are in the process of updating our blog and I realise that part 2 is long overdue. I haven´t told you, for example, about the time I tickled a rat´s tail (really) or about my ginger beer shower or the time I was maddly rolling pastry between two plastic bags to make squash tarts for 30 people...

OK, so here´s the deal. I discovered in my time here that I´m a bit of a girly when it comes to manual labour:

  1. (1) I don´t like trashing my clothes
  2. (2) I avoid getting filthy and sweaty (both inevitable in the rain and heat) and
  3. (3) my shoulders are just not built for heavy lifting or dragging of natural building materials – let the men do it!

Unlike Dan then, most of my time and experiences I´m writing about take place in and around the main house: practicing Spanish and cooking, making ginger beer (sometimes chilli salsa), looking after the worm bin etc. I´ve also written one or two pieces for the Ranch newsletter and had a regular teaching slot at the local elementary school.

A rat´s tale

So how did I tickle a rat´s tail I hear you ask? One day it happened that I was looking for some fabric with which to sew a small bag. I found what I was looking for – a small piece of shirt material – in a small basket next to the old sewing machine on the porch at the side of the house. The porch is under cover of course. Then, I decided to look for some thread which I would find on top of the sewing machine. The latter had not been in use for some time and was drapped in a sheet to keep off the dirt. I started to lift up the sheet and to rootle around. I found a basket of thread, but nosing further I found what looked like a dried up worm lying in its white folds.

A worm, in a sheet, on top of a sewing machine? More fool me I suppose. Still, I thought if you can find leeches in strange places (like the time we found one in with the colouring pencils), why not a worm? With that thought in mind I flicked it with my finger. It moved. Just a small amount though, so I flicked it again to be sure. Yep, definitely movement. Somewhat unnerved I fetched Kattia, Jenny and Lusmilda (the local women who work for Tim and Robin) from the kitchen and asked them to take a look. With an audience I flicked the “worm” again. This time it disappeared!! Lusmilda, laughing, said “it´s a rat!”. They set to, removing the sheet completely. I shrieked and jumped back and got the wrong cat. The rat, clever rat, went under one of the two outdoor fridges never to be seen or tickled again.

I don´t do rats. I´ve become accustomed to bugs, spiders, and all manner of other things including sticking my hands in cow poo (although not too often for reasons enumerated above), but not rats. This was my third encounter. The first two came earlier in our stay during a cat and rat chase when said rat ran out in front of me shortly followed by Bandido – the black and white cat lazing on the cob oven in our photo gallery. I don´t know how, but I got in the way twice. Anyway, Bandido got him good! Unfortunately, on the day of the tail tickling incident I picked up the wrong black and white cat. Cududru, was not impressed and stalked off in disgust back to his interrupted nap.

A ginger shower

I didn´t excel at much in Mastatal (itself a humbling experience), but I was the queen of ginger beer! Mine was the first drinkable and enjoyable stuff anyone had succeeded at brewing. The recipe in case you´re interested involves: 30 cm of ginger root, 4 litres of water, 2 cups of sugar and the juice of two lemons. First you have to begin the fermentation process, known affectionately as the ginger bug. Take a glass jar, fill with 250ml water, 2 teaspoons of grated ginger and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Cover with cheese cloth and an elastic band (or something similar for the air to circulate) and leave in a warm place until it starts to bubble. Then your ready to go.

For the liquor, boil 2 litres water and the rest of the ginger root finely grated, and 1.5 cups of sugar (don´t what it is in grams...) for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and speed up the process by adding the other 2 litres of water and the lemon juice. Once it reaches room temperature add your ginger bug, stir, strain your beer into plastic bottles. These hold in the fizz. Place in warm spot for 2 weeks and then it´s ready to refrigerate and drink. This is a non-alcoholic drink.

But, and here is the key point. Be prepared to "burp" your beer when the bottles harden - another good reason to use plastic bottles because you can feel the difference. The pressure built-up during fermentation was enough to cause a small explosion at the ranch by a previous incumbent ginger beer brewer! The same caution is essential when opening a bottle of the ready stuff for the first time, you have to let the excess gas escape a bit at a time. And if you don´t well... see what happens.

Two weeks before we left the Ranch Dan and I, plus another intern Herng, had the place more or less to ourselves. Tim and Robin, the other volunteers and the remaining interns had gone to the beach for the weekend. As with most days at the ranch there were routine jobs to do and folk popping in from the village. Lili, the owner of the local soda (a small restaurant) came by to say hello as we sat down to lunch. Dan had retrieved a bottle of ginger beer from the fridge and I offered Lili a glass. Without thinking, I opened the bottle and took off the lid, to be greeted by a foaming ginger explosion. It fountained all over me, the sideboard, the floor, everywhere. By the time I succeeded in putting the lid back on the bottle I was soaked through; Lili, Dan and Herng were in kinks. Lili enjoyed her drink all the more for the entertainment that came with it!

Crazy pastry

Numbers go up and down at the Ranch. Usually there are never less than 10 people to cook for, at most were about 35. Given the amount of physical exercise going on and the healthy appetites of young teenage or twenty-something students, you want to be onthe generous side too. One particular Friday afternoon I was on dinner duty and Robin asked us to make Squash Tart. We had a school group at the time and had to multiply a recipe for 8 people by four times. My particular responsibility was the pastry which I would have to multiply by at least six times. Extra pastry was needed because we would be making the tart in large falt baking trays, the filling would simply be spread more thinly.

Katia was in the kitchen with me. She prepared the filling: grated cheese, beaten egg, caramelised onions and stewed squash with garlic. And then she went home! Her parting words were “good luck, you´ll need it!”. What she was refering to and hated doing herself was the pastry. It contained a lot of butter and vegetable fat – which makes it very tasty – resulting in an incredibly crumbly consistency. So there I was, going crazy over how to get this pastry to roll out in one piece. I had to produce dinner for 30 hungry people! That´s when a helpful suggestion from Robin and two large plastic bags saved the day!

Forget flour on the table. I hastily found two bags and snipped them in half. Then the thing to do is to place your short pastry between two layers of plastic (or cling film, but we didn´t have any) and proceed to roll it flat. The only thing to avoid is kinks in the plastic. When you achieve the desired size, peel off the top layer of plastic and carefully flip the pastry into a greased dish. In my case it was three large trays. The rest was more straight forward, pricking the base and baking it for 10 minutes and finally putting together with the filling and popping it into the oven for half an hour. The end product was eaten in about the time it took me to mix the pastry... it tasted good!

Tags: ginger beer, pastry, rats

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.

About rachel_and_daniel

Argh!  Well, maybe not pirates this time, but dig the colour-coordinated bandanas!

Follow Me

Where I've been

Photo Galleries


Near Misses

My trip journals

See all my tags 



Travel Answers about Costa Rica

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.