Mexico has the taco. Honduras has the baleada. El Salvador has the pupusa. Pipil tribes, first ate the thick and usually filled, hand formed nixtamal tortilla, more than a thousand years ago. Evidence of pupusas has even been uncovered at the Mayan site of Joya de Cerén. They are the most common street snack in El Salvador and can also be found in neighboring countries like Honduras and Guatemala. Most often, pupusas are filled with quesillo (or queso, a soft white cheese), frijoles (refried beans), chicharrón (ground pork), or loroco (a native Central American flower). They are typically served with curtido, a lightly fermented cabbage slaw with red chilies and vinegar.
Granada, Nicaragua isn’t how I remember it. Though nothing ever is really. Six years ago on my first visit there was a little bit of a scene. There were a couple of restored colonial hotels on the plaza. The Bearded Monkey was packed with backpackers who helped fill the couple of expat bars and local haunts. Some streets were best avoided though. There was a seedy aspect to the extent a knifing might occur if you took a wrong turn at night. At the city’s central market, I ordered tajadas con chancho and a juice and spent the next 36 hours in bed. Still I wanted to come back. Few places can really pull off the faded, tropical colonial atmosphere as well. Maybe Cartagena or Havana? I expected changes on my return, but I questioned if the city had retained its magic. It had.
“The first time I saw Ol’ Tom, I thought heese gonna eat me,” said a woman on Jewel Cay.
“Ol’ Tom?” I asked.
“Dats what we call da whale sharks here on da cays,” she explained. “We wuz lookin for da Bonita ad we saw lotsa birds flyon’ about. Den we seen all deese bubbles and a great big shadow, bigger dan da boat come up beside us.”