Casados, and the perfection of a simple meal.
Adapted from: the typical Costa Rican lunch plate.
Last week I was in Nosara, a small beach town on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica. Nicoya is one of the original five Blue Zones: areas in the world with the highest concentration of centenarians. While this longevity can be attributed to more than just diet—the research points to a sense of purpose, supportive social circles, active lifestyles, and reduced stress, among other factors—the way Nicoyans eat certainly has something to do with it.
A traditional Costa Rican dish we saw time and time again in Nosara was the casado—a combo plate of rice, beans, a protein, and a salad. The name translates to “married man,” a nod to how labourers’ wives used to pack them a similar meal for work, perhaps, or how the dish “marries” the country’s favourite foods together. It’s a hearty but balanced meal, usually eaten for lunch, as Costa Ricans tend to eat a light dinner if any at all. (This is, according to the reporting on Blue Zones, another classic centenarian move.)
A casado is, to me, the Platonic ideal of a meal. Simple, flavourful, with seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. I ordered it whenever I could, from the open-air, family-style eateries Ticos call “sodas.” Always with a piece of mahi-mahi, and a glass of fruit juice. It doesn’t feel like a meal I could ever tire of.
The classic Costa Rican expression you hear time and time again—as greeting, as goodbye, as a way of saying everything is great—is “Pura Vida,” which translates to pure life. It’s as much of a cultural slogan as it is a deliberate way of life: a choice to slow down, shed the trappings of modern existence, and focus on the beauty of living itself.
Eating a casado feels like an embodiment of this philosophy. It’s not pretending to be something it’s not—just a no-frills, nourishing meal you can eat when the sun is blaring overhead, before heading back out into the gentler heat of the afternoon. And when you do, you feel sated beyond the body, somewhere into the soul.
It felt strange to attach a recipe for something so modular, but here is a great resource from Pura Vida Moms on the variations of casado you can find in Costa Rica, and how to make your own.
Until next time,