Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New cousins, new beans

I'm a family history addict. I'm lucky to have been born into a family of story tellers and writers, so reading and listening to family lore my whole life made me want to know more about the various branches of my ancestry.

Genealogy is a multidisciplinary journey. First I learned about public records and archival research; then record-keeping and sourcing. When my search for ancestors moved offshore I dredged up my high school French and German and acquired some basic Latin. As the family tree grew I wanted to know why people left their homelands. What was their life like? Why did their names change? So I sought out histories of the Huguenots, Quebec, the Banat, Haiti, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas to learn about their lives.

Sometimes I get lucky and uncover old photographs, but more often than not they're unlabeled and undated. So I study the clothing, the studio, the style of the image, the framing, the paper they're printed on, the faces of the subjects, anything that can help estimate the date and place or identify the people.

Every new type of document, record or artifact requires a knowledge base in order to evaluate its authenticity and understand its significance.

When I first started more than twenty years ago family history research required spending hours and hours in dusty libraries scanning rolls of microfilm until I was nearly seasick from the jumping, weaving images. I paged through delicate church registries in white archive gloves hoping to inch back another generation. I used library phone books to find possible distant cousins in other regions and wrote hundreds of letters that began, "You don't know me but I believe we are related...."

Suddenly--and it does seem sudden--we find ourselves in the future. Millions of records have been digitized and indexed. Phone directories are online. People share their research on family history websites hoping to collaborate with others researching the same lines. And best of all, social networking has been embraced even by the AARP set.

I like to identify an immigrant ancestor then find every one of his or her descendants all the way to the present day. I've done this with two lines so far, and I'm onto a third, a 4th great-grandfather named Archibald Liggett who made the journey from the British Isles to St. Thomas sometime around 1800. Archibald had five children. Two sons and a daughter stayed in St. Thomas; one son went to Philadelphia (my line) and one went to Louisiana. I'm determined to fill in this whole family tree.

I've recently discovered that one branch of the Liggetts of St. Thomas  migrated to Costa Rica, and what's more, I've connected with a new-found cousin in San Jose. I love meeting new cousins, not just because I gain new family information but because connecting with another descendant of a immigrant ancestor reminds me that a long time ago one person changed the course of generations by leaving his homeland to build a better life for his family. 

In the course of learning more about Costa Rica, I discovered their version of beans and rice, gallo pinto. I poked around the internet for a definitive recipe then smacked my forehead and thought, wait a minute -- I have the inside track! I asked my new cousin for a recipe and he was happy to oblige. I've edited a little for clarity.

My beloved cousin Marce,
Responding to your request about one of our typical dishes Gallo Pinto, I asked my wife who really knows how to cook, well she teaches in a cooking academy Cocinart here, cause I do not cook is not one of my strongest points, but in the other I love to eat very well, probably cause I got used to it cause my grandmother Myra May and my mother Andrina were great cooks.
Before we go into it let me explain certain facts
  • Rice is one of the most basic ingredients in Costa Rican diet
  • Beans the same, you could find them Black, Red, White, baby beans, Cubaces that are a bit bigger and so on, we eat them in different ways and at any hour.
  • Gallo Pinto is called like that because the mixture resembles the spots of a rooster.
  • We eat it at breakfast, most usually with fried or scrambled eggs on top and with a tender or fresh cheese also with bacon or ham or chorizo, also with something sweet as French toast or fruits as melon, strawberries and of course with coffee, it is like a small brunch.
Well here is what I’ve got for you

For preparing it, you should have already prepared rice or cooked , better from a day before.


2 spoons of vegetable oil
2 spoon of copped onions
3 cups of normal white rice (washed and drained out )
Boiling water
Salt at taste
¼ of a red pepper cut in slices (optional)
To be cooked in a microwave oven. In a big pan, (usually they sell the ones for cooking rice) you put the rice the salt and the vegetable oil , the onion, boiling water to cover the rice surpassing it 1 cm. or so (1/2”) set the heat to hi till it drays, take it out and  stir with a fork one or two times. Lower the heat, add ½ a cup of boiling water, the red pepper and cook at low heat for 10 minutes, and should be ready. Take it out and stir again with a fork till is loose.


In Costa Rica when you are going to cook beans we say “ Voy a poner frijoles” or  I’m going to put beans,  not cook. Over here you can get them at the supermarket in a 1 kilo (2.6 pounds) packages.

You wash them well and leave them in water for at least one hour. You can cook them in a slow cooker or better in a pressure cooker so you’ll finish sooner. You put them in the pan then you add 1 garlic, 1 celery straw, thyme and oregano, and if you like it coriander and sufficient water salt to the taste. After the sound of the valve you leave them cooking for 30 to 35 minutes more at low heat. You then let it cool, so you can open it, then the salt is verified to taste,  and the tenderness of the beans.
In a fry pan with two spoons of vegetable oil, 2 spoons of chopped onion, chicken broth to the taste, till the onion is transparent, then you add it to the cooked beans. The first day we have what we call sopa negra if the beans are black or just bean soup if they are of other color, with cooked eggs, and avocado on it also with rice .

Gallo Pinto
Having already cooked rice and beans from the day before, in a big fry pan, cook 2 or 3 spoons of vegetable oil, 2 or 3 spoons of chopped onion till   the onion is transparent.

Add 3 cups of cooked rice and 1 and a half cups of the baked beans from yesterday, stir and blend, add 1 spoon of Lea & Perrins sauce; we use Salsa Lizano .
(From Marce: I was not familiar with Salsa Lizano, so I went to our favorite Latin American/Caribbean grocery to get it. Apparently it's very popular; there was lots on the shelf.)
Then the onion is added then chopped red pepper and coriander. Blend and serve. If you like hot sauce you add it or leave it to the people to make the choice.

These beans were incredible. I followed the recipe exactly except I cooked the rice in a pan instead of the microwave, and of course I didn't use chicken broth. We ate them with a Field Roast Chipotle Sausage and a couple of leftover sweet potato tamales in banana leaves. Delish! Thanks, cuz.

1 comment:

  1. Yum! Thank you for not editing your cousin's recipe - I always love seeing the grammatical constructions (and it makes me feel slightly better that my own French & Swedish grammar is not quite up to par!).

    I can't believe I haven't made any of these recipes yet. Soon, soon....