I was pleased to see these little guys in such abundance in Puerto Rico. They really are just everywhere, at the villa, in the rainforest, even in the resturant where we had lunch in San Juan! They are fun to watch as they scurry about, warm themselves in the sun, do their "pushups" and blow up their orange necks. One thing that was not so much fun to watch was when one of the cats at the villa chased one down and ate it, only later to regurgitate the poor little guy. Ew.
Often I find myself terribly thirsty and in need of a frosty beverage while driving someplace. I always wish that I could instantly have a cold bottle of water. The Puerto Ricans can make that wish come true! While stopped at a traffic light you will notice from time to time that a man will appear walking down the road, water and other assorted drinks in hand. For one measly dollar one could be yours, and wishes can come true.
(this also happens with newspapers, but hey when I'm on vacation i don't usually want one of those. Good for those on the way to work or something I spose.)
These little brown tree frogs are the symbol of Puerto Rico. They are everywhere and nowhere all at once. Almost impossible to spot (one brochure said they were only slightly easier to find then a leprechuan!) they are also impossible to ignore. Their song "Ko-Kee Ko-Kee" can be heard all throughout the night. After a rainfall the coqui song becomes even more animated. I suppose it's amphibian party time:)
Lucky for me, the owner of the villa we stayed in has a knack of finding these little guys. When I mentioned I really wanted to see one, he offered to seek some out for me. Pictured are the two different types of Coqui he found that morning. Apparently they have 10 of the 17 types right on the villa property.
Puerto Ricans speak Spanish but it is not the Spanish you learned in school. They learn English in school but away from San Juan, not many of the people speak English. Over the years the Puerto Rican Spanish has absorbed some of the English words into it with their own variation such as elevador for elevator. Some of them you can figure out but others are a puzzle. They also have a dialect which is quite different from Spanish. Signs, even on the highways or the main toll road are only in Spanish. The important ones you can tell from the shape and color. One thing that happened to us was on the toll road that goes from San Juan to Ponce. We saw the sign that read, "Precausion possibe ganada en el rodje". I knew it meant there was some danger on the road but couldn't figure out what until I found that ganada is cows.
Driving around the island you see many different crops. Sugar cane fields are common. Sugar cane is still the leading crop on the island for export and it's mostly for rum production, or so I was told. Coffee is the 2nd most important export crop. We saw a lot of coffee growing in the mountains. In fact the Hacienda we stayed in up there once was a coffee plantation and still grows some. We also saw a lot of bananas growing around the island including up in the mountains. One time we met a huge truck load of bananas on a narrow mountains road which was very intimidating. Puerto Rican tobacco is also important. It is made into cigars.
A shaved ice cone covered with syrup of fruity flavors such as: rasberry, pineapple, coconut, guava or tamarind, among others. Those who sells "piraguas" are known as piragüeros. You can find them near plazas in small carts creatively painted with bright colors.
Rum is the national drink, and you can buy it in almost any shade. Puerto Rico is the world's leading rum producer; 80% of the rum consumed in the United States hails from the island.
Today's rum bears little resemblance to the raw and grainy beverage consumed by the renegades and pirates of the Spanish Main. Christopher Columbus brought sugarcane, from which rum is distilled, to the Caribbean on his second voyage to the New World, and in virtually no time it became the regional drink.
The color of rum is usually gold, amber, or white. The lightest, driest rum is white. It can easily replace gin or vodka in dozens of mixed drinks that are eminently suited for consumption in the tropics. Many Puerto Ricans make Bloody Marys with rum instead of gin or vodka. The robust flavors of the gold or amber rums make them an effective substitute for whiskey. Whit white (clear) rum, orange juice and tonic water are the most popular mixers; amber rum is often served on the rocks. Puerto Ricans are fond of mixing it with various cola drinks. Gold rums, aged between four and six years (sometimes longer) in wooden casks are called ánejos. They are considered the most flavorful and distinctive on the island rums. They are smooth; drink them straight or on the rocks.
Bacardi is the Puerto Rican rum most widely consumed in the United States. It is followed by other popular brands, including, Ronrico, Castillo, and Don Q. The ánejos rums carry such labels as Bacardi Gold Reserve, Ron del Barrilito, and Seralles' El Dorado.
Your best introduction to Puerto Rican rum making is to visit the Bacardi distillery in Cataño, just a short ferry-boat ride across the San Juan harbor.
Most visitors to the island seem to like the fish and shellfish. A popular fried fish with Puerto Rican sauce (mojo isleño). The sauce is made with olives and olive oil, onions, pimientos, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, and a flavoring of garlic and bay leaves. Fresh fish is often grilled, and perhaps flavored with garlic and an overlay of freshly squeezed lime juice -a very tasty dinner indeed. Caribbean lobster is usually the most expensive item on any menu, followed by shrimp. Puerto Ricans often cook shrimp in beer (camarones en cerveza). Another delectable shellfish dish is boiled crab (jueyes hervidos).
Many tasty egg dishes are served, especially tortilla española (Spanish omelet), cooked with finely chopped onions, cubed potatoes, and olive oil.
The rich and fertile fields of Puerto Rico produce a wide variety of vegetables. A favorite is the chayote, a pear-shaped vegetable called christophone throughout most of the English-speaking Caribbean. Its delicately flavored flesh is often compared to that of summer squash. Breadfruit, prepared in a number of ways, frequently accompanies main dishes. This large, round fruit from a tropical tree has a thick green rind covering its starchy, sweet flesh. The flavor is evocative of a sweet potato. Tostones -fried green breadfruit slices- accompany most meat, fish, or poultry dishes served on the island.
Tostones may also be made with plantains. In fact, the plantains seems to be the single most popular side dish served on the island. Plantains are a variety of banana that cannot be eaten raw. They are much coarser in texture that ordinary bananas and are harvested while green, then baked, fried, or boiled. When made into tostones, they are usually served as a appetizer with before-dinner drinks. Fried to a deep golden-yellow, plantains may accompany fish, meat, or poultry dishes.
A festive island dish is lechón asado, or barbecued pig, which is usually cooked for a party of 12 or 15. It is traditional for picnics and al fresco parties; one can sometimes catch the aroma of this dish wafting through the palm trees, a smell that must have been familiar to the Taino peoples. The pig is basted with jugo de naranjas agría (sour orange juice) and achiote coloring. Green plantains are peeled and roasted over hot stones, then served with the barbecued pig as a side dish. The traditional dressing served with the pig is ali-li-monjili, a sour garlic sauce. The sauce combines garlic, whole black peppercorns, and sweet seeded chile peppers, flavored further with vinegar, lime juice, and olive oil.
Puerto Ricans adore chicken, which they flower various spices and seasoning. Arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) is the most popular chicken dish on the island, and it was brought long ago to the U.S mainland. Other favorite preparations include chicken in sherry (pollo al jerez), pollo agridulce (sweet and sour chicken), and pollitos asados a la parrilla (broiled chickens).
The aroma that wafts from kitchens throughout Puerto Rico comes from adobo and sofrito -blends of herbs and spices that give many of the native foods their distinctive taste and color. Adobo, made by crushing together peppercorns, oregano, garlic, salt, olive oil, and lime juice or vinegar, is rubbed into meats before they are roasted. Sofrito, a potpourri of onions, garlic, coriander, and peppers browned in either olive oil or land and colored with achiote (annatoo seeds), imparts the bright-yellow color to the island's rice, soups, and stews.
Stews loom large in the Puerto Rican diet. They are usually cooked in a caldero or heavy kettle. A popular one is carne guisada puertorriqueña; (Puerto Rican beef stew). The ingredients that flavor the chunks of beef vary according to the cook's whims or whatever happens to be in the larder. These might include green peppers, sweet chile peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, potatoes, olives stuffed with pimientos, or capers. Seeded raisins may be added on occasion
Not really a soup, the most traditional Puerto Rican dish is asopao, a hearty gumbo made with either chicken or shellfish. One well-known version, consumed when the food budget runs low, is asopao de gandules (pigeon peas). Every Puerto Rican chef has his or her own recipe for asopao. Asopao de pollo (chicken asopao) takes a whole chicken, which is then flavored with spices such as oregano, garlic, and paprika, along with salt pork, cured ham, green peppers, chile peppers, onions, cilantro, olives, tomatoes, chorizos, and pimientos
Lunch and dinner generally begin with sizzling-hot appetizers such as bacalaitos, crunchy cod fritters; surullitos, sweet plump cornmeal fingers; and empanadillas, crescent-shaped turnovers filled with lobster, crab, conch, or beef.
I noticed here as in other parts of the Caribbean that one of the preferred cooking methods is deep frying. If you are on a diet or looking for more healthful options I recommend going to the local market and picking up freshly caught fish and shrimp and preparing it in a more healthy manner. Oh, but do at least try tostones rellenos con pollo...deep fried plaintains with chicken. This is a surprisingly delightful dish!!!
Although I never actually saw one, at night you can really hear the Coquis (small tree frogs). For more info on this little guy and to hear what the Coqui sounds like, check out http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Shores/8070/coqui2.htm
I found that everyone I met gave me a handshake which pulled into a hug and one kiss on the cheek.
Being European, I am used to 3 kisses on the cheek. I find that Puerto Ricans just do one kiss instead of three. That took a bit of getting used to.
People are very friendly and outgoing, if you're Canadian or American without a European cultural background this may take a while to get used to.