Reporter's Notebook: Guatemalan Cuisine

Dragon fruit
Dragon fruit

August 4, 2011

"Whatever you do, don't drink the water," everyone told me before I came to this part of Central America. "And the food there, well, you'd better be careful."

It left me wondering, what in the world was I going to eat?

The answer is: everything.

The Co Ed folks have made sure we're staying in hotels with good ratings, and they've assured us that it's fine to eat most of what's in front of us at meal times.

As I discovered on Wednesday, what's in front of us is usually a lot.

We sat down to lunch at the Hotel Posada in Santiago, and I could not believe my eyes. We had plantains, BBQ chicken, potatoes, stir fried veggies, hot chocolate, fresh fruit, and more.

In other words, the food just kept on coming.

Then it was all followed up by a brownie dessert. There went my diet.

Co Ed staffers say, as much as this trip is about learning about the people of the Guatemala, it's also about tasting and trying the foods and the culture that makes Guatemala so unique.

And what I've discovered is, the food can be absolutely delicious. Everything tastes fresh: no pesticides on the fruit, no rubbery taste in the chicken. Even the bread seems fluffy and crisp.

It's amazing. And it's easy to feel quite guilty eating all of it. Most of the people in Guatemala don't have a chance to eat like this on a regular basis.

Guatemala's know for agriculture—that's the country's primary export. Coffee, chocolate, fruit, corn and squash are huge here, and it shows.

At lunch, I even got to try something I'd never seen before: dragon fruit. It tastes like a cross between a pomegranate and a kiwi. Locals here told me it is best served with a scoop of ice cream. They were not wrong.

Food here is also often served family style, so we are also eating all our meals that way. I can't remember the last time I did that without it being a holiday back in the US, so I'm finding it extra fun.  People who've never met each other pass the dishes and serve each other.  Two days in, it's creating a sense of friendship among folks who come from all over the US.

Of course, I tell myself I shouldn't worry about the weight because we are walking many places, and it's not for short distances. Guatemala is a country of mountains and hills, with very little flat land.  You're feet feel the change in terrain after just a few hours of exploring.  It gives the group a chance to see much of the villages where we stop.

But I am also hoping, of course, that all the walking provides a nice counterbalance to this food. It's not a vacation for me, after all.  I have to come back somewhat intact.