We didn’t participate much in Carnaval this year. At this point I’d liken our feeling to ambivalence. Something like living in Calgary for most of my life where the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, the Calgary Stampeded takes place. Unless you are actually in the rodeo it is just the same stuff year after year. Same rides, same entertainment, same tourists. Every second year or so is good. We can enjoy the sounds and ambiance from the house without the crowds, thank you.
We did decide one night that we wanted to go out and eat supper from one of the food stalls set up and take a look around at the other vendors. For this we chose early Monday evening when all was quiet. Walking through the one road accessible from our side we noted that the restaurants weren’t that full of people but there was music coming from somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be a normally empty family home on the square where large speakers were set up and several people were dancing and singing. Carnaval is one of the celebrations that families will come from the city, where they live and work, to the interior where they have a shared ancestral home. Walking around the pueblo you’ll see many family names on the outside of these homes, and many will return for Semana Santa (Easter Week) in a little over six weeks’ time.
We quickly found a food stall set off on one of the side roads that had fried chicken, empanadas, pork, hojaldres (fry bread), torrejitas de maiz (corn fritters), sancocho (chicken soup), carimañola (yucca fritter with meat, chicken or white cheese in the middle ) and ensalada de feria (pink potato salad) you know, light food. I quickly settled on a scoop of ensalada de feria (it gets its pink color from beets), a piece of fried chicken and my favourite, torrejitas de maiz. SU decided on the same having two pieces of chicken instead of one. Then after he ate his meal added an empanada, then a piece of pork whereupon he declared that was it for him; “Go big or go home” being the theme for the evening. We bypassed the meat on a stick stall this time round our bellies full.
Panameños are not known for their “light” foods. Almost everything is deep-fried and/or white. Occasionally you’ll find a bit of green salad with iceberg lettuce, a tomato and some onion on your plate. Or a bit of coleslaw with cabbage and carrot. Or a white potato salad with some carrot or the pink ensalada de feria with beets and/or carrots added to the mix. Arroz con pollo, chicken with rice will often have a bit of carrot and onion in it and I like it best with olives in the mix.
Still, as far as carnival food goes, Panameño food isn’t as bad as some of the things I’ve seen in North America and we don’t eat it every day. I don’t think there is a deep-fried Twinkie or Mars Bar or a Krispy Kreme Hamburger to be seen…in the campo.
What is your favourite carnival food; corn dogs, pickles on a stick, corn on the cob? Tell me about it. Really, I’m interested. 🙂