Where do I start on describing my food experiences on expedition in the Dominican Republic? There is actually such a dichotomy in the enjoyment of the meals I had during those 2 weeks that it is hard to sum up. In fact, this trip highlighted how important, and crucial, food is to me for the overall satisfaction of an experience (probably why I love Southeast Asia so much). The food was in some cases terrible (boiled green banana at breakfast and dinner time) and brilliant in others (tasty goat curry in Santo Domingo). But mostly, it was the hard work of digging that led to food constantly been on the mind and in the conversations of the group.
As all of our meals were prepared for us by our homestay families, we all had rather different experiences with standard and choice of our food. For instance, some homestay groups would be fed breakfast at their homestay before setting off for the day whilst others were sent off with some food in a tupperware box to eat later on. Some had the exact same meals every day, and others were surprised on a daily basis by what appeared in front of them.
Arielle and I were continually surprised. And not always in a good way.
It had started off so well…on the first morning we were treated to fried eggs with boiled starches (yuka, plaintain, green bananas) for breakfast. Obviously being a banana-hater I avoided those items, but the yuka and eggs were fine and actually rather filling for the arduous day of manual labour that lay ahead of us.
My homestay sister – Arielle – at our first breakfast in La Laguna. Fried eggs!
Even lunch was surprisingly good. Our family sent several boxes of hot food to the worksite including rice and beans, and fried chicken. Again, useful for a day of highly-spent energy.
But then something changed. The food situation deteriorated. The fried eggs never appeared again despite our not-so-subtle mentions that it was our favourite. An unusual chocolate and oat type drink was served at breakfast accompanied by a dry, tasteless cracker or bread roll. Not so filling at all. And when cold it becomes stodgy and undrinkable. I felt so terribly guilty for not being able to stomach the food so kindly presented to us, but I just cannot eat things that taste so bad to me.
The majority of our breakfast was this unusual bland chocolate and oat drink with bread.
The enormous bowls of boiled green banana and plantain continued, despite our obvious dislike for it. The huge bowl was hardly touched and yet the family kept giving us more. I would have felt bad for the waste, but I think the family waited until we had eaten before finishing off our leftovers. I guess they were pleased we didn’t eat it?! Maybe.
After days of the same chicken, rice and beans for lunch I began to be unable to stomach much of that either. There was none of that spice you expect from the rest of the Caribbean. No Jerk-style Chicken here. It was unfortunate, but I ate a little of what I could. The food was rather bland and sometimes undercooked, which was a shame.
The worst dish came on our last morning in La Laguna. We had been told the previous day that we were to have the freshly-laid eggs for breakfast so we had had our hopes up for fried eggs. And of course, being a Friday they don’t cook or eat meat so fried salami was off the menu. However, we come to our little plastic table to find a large bowl of beige slime accompanied by a side dish of sliced boiled eggs and some bread rolls. The beige slime I am sad to tell you, tasted exactly as it looks and sounds. It tasted like beige. Slimy beige.
The last breakfast – beige slime.
Oh dear, I feel so terrible moaning about the food. The family were absolutely wonderful and they tried so hard to make us feel welcome. They really did take care of us. But food was not their strong point at all. Undercooked, tasteless and huge quantities.
Nevermind, I tend not to have much of an appetite in the heat anyway.
(In balance I must say I did like the fried salami which was served a couple of times at breakfast with a roll spread with mayonaise.)