Yesterday’s post made me think of things that are totally new to me in Belize but now a daily part of my life. How did I live without this stuff? Simple answer…I didn’t really cook (or clean for that matter). Manhattan was takeaway sushi, eating out most nights, delivered Italian food at 11pm and twice daily trips to Whole Foods Supermarket/Superstore/My favorite place on earth. So convenient. It has been a tough adjustment for me. Making a shopping list for more than one day’s food is still out of my reach, but I am getting better.I love certain fruits and vegetables when they are in season or available like cassava, mamey and mangoes. But here are my new everyday household necessities. I’m glad that a bit of cooking, time in the kitchen and Belize has forced me to find them. Though…Whole Foods, I miss you every day.
Mahler chicken consomme: The top five ingredients are: Salt, wheat flour, MSG, sugar and margarine. Ground dehydrated chicken meat appears lower on the list. But I love this stuff. It makes great chicken soup (with lots of things added) and just tastes great cooked in white rice. I must use it 3-4x a week. (Sorry gourmet cooks…I can see you all cringing.)
I like to see a happy chicken dancing himself right into the meat grinder.
Lisette’s Secret Sauce: A delicious mango-y, spicy sauce that tastes great on everything. Chicken, fish, cream cheese, sandwiches and rice & beans. I just dipped my perfect grilled cheese sandwich in it…something I was quite nervous about doing…and it made it even better.
Zote Soap: The perfect soap for hand washing all of your garments. I find it gets out almost every stain. Just soften it up, scrub some on and soak. Gone. And your musty bathing suit smells good for a long time. It comes in GIANT bars for super cheap. Pink or white. (Pick pink) And only $1.50-3bzd max. This stuff is the WD-40 of the cleaning world. Other uses? It’s contains citronella which can repel mosquitos. In a pinch, it washes dishes. I use it to wash my hands. You can grate it and use it in the washing machine. It is even sold on Ebay at catfish bait. CATFISH BAIT! A truly magical soap.
A Crock Pot: Always something I associated with old ladies, pot roast, and potpourri. It was something you might receive as a wedding gift from a distant relative and then return for cash. But most households here have them and, who knew? They are incredibly useful. Softening beans, lentils, soups, stewed chicken…it’s super handy. My next purchase? A rice cooker. Look at me! Quickly becoming little Suzy Home-maker.
Downy Fabric Softener: I was always a dryer sheet gal. I knew the liquid existed but never tried it, I never even noticed it in the stores. In San Pedro, the sheets are harder to find and are prohibitively expensive. I’ve become quite a connoisseur of the liquids…and this one is the best. (The picture below is classic Superbuy. Often the same products on the shelves have different prices.)
I thought Libra Enjuague meant something fancy like summer breeze…but translates only to “rinse free”. Boring.
Limes: Not just a wedge on the side of your diet coke, here, lime is in everything. Squeezed on chicken, fish, beef, in soup, on rice, in beer with salt, on tacos…it is a condiment, not a fruit. I can think of few meals that it is not served with. (I do miss lemons though…on some things, lime is just not the same).
Fanta: In the states, most people know Fanta only by the loud colorful commercials with Latin dancing girls. I don’t think I’d ever tried it. In Belize, along with Coke, it is the universal soda. Not only do they do the candy flavored orange, fruit punch, grape and pineapple but Fanta/Bowen & Bowen bottles the soda water, tonic, gingerale and root beer too. I find that an orange Fanta is a most effective hangover cure.
Left to right: Ginger, Tonic, Soda Water, Orange, Grape and Pineapple
Fun Belize Fanta Fact: To differentiate the clear tonic from the clear soda water (all are packaged in identical bottles), pink coloring is added to the tonic. It makes for a lovely blush colored rum & tonic…your old, clear gin and tonics seem a total bore. But drink quickly, the coloring fades when exposed to air or sunlight.
Cilantro: My love affair with this flavor has already been well documented in a previous post: I’m Confused…I Thought Everyone Loved Cilantro. It continues on a daily basis.
Marie Sharp’s Green Habanero Sauce: Medium hot and green from cactus paddles, this is far and away my favorite of the hot sauces. It’s great on everything. Particularly eggs.
Fish Insect Spray: No idea why it is called Fish. It would probably easily kill a fish. But I find this stuff very useful. Have a mosquito in your bathroom…give a spray of this and close the door. Consider her dead. Sugar ants will disappear. Sure it’s probably not good for the environment or good for me, but bugs? I hate them. Plus, it’s made in Trinidad and Tobago…what could go wrong?
Complete Seasoning: Apparently, I am hooked on MSG because I sprinkle this stuff on everything. Along with some other spices (garlic, onion and others), mono-sodium glutamate is one of the keys in this spice blend. Baked chicken legs are a staple of my diet. Wash and dry, sprinkle with this seasoning and bake at 425 for 40-45 minutes. Delicious.
Habanero Pepper: This is no chili pepper for wimps. It is one of the hottest on earth. But add one un-punctured to anything that you are going to slow cook…stew, soup or meat. It adds a tiny bit of heat and delicious flavor. Just make sure you don’t accidentally eat it. It hardly mellows with cooking. It will be a moment you won’t soon forget.
Habaneros being cleaned at the Marie Sharp plant. Gloves and goggles required.
Honorable Mention Goes to: Coconut Milk. In small quantities, I’m using this non-sweetened Belizean go-to ingredient more and more. Rice, curries, and soups, this makes things creamy and delicious.
Feel free to leave me a comment if you have anything I should be adding to my list.