I was certain that the easiest part of this trip would be feeding the kids. Naia practically lives on rice and beans and quesadillas at home, so eating in Nicaragua would be a breeze, right? Gallo Pinto is a signature dish of Nicaragua, and it's basically rice and beans. But... it's the wrong rice, and the wrong beans. Of course. And the local cheese it salty and strong and...wrong. I was sure having our own kitchen in our own little house would mean I could just head to the local grocery store or market, pick up some basics, and feed my grateful children. Except the stove only had two setting, barely breathing and flame thrower. Our bare bones ingredients turned into edible meals, kind of. We could get some basic groceries at the local store, but I kept striking out with the kids. Especially with Naia.
I knew I failed as a mother when my dad took one look at her over FaceTime 5,000 miles away and said, "What's wrong with Naia, she looks awful. Are you feeding her?"
When I reviewed in my mind what had actually gone in her mouth over the past several days I was mortified. Toast, a granola bar, toast, water, toast. No wonder she was so lethargic and cranky. That night we found a gringo pizza place and she ate an entire pizza by herself and skipped all the way home. Mom of the year.
The food we found in Nicaragua wasn't great. The best stuff was of course street food, but the problem there was that the street vendors usually didn't start grilling up dinner until 7:30-8pm when our tribe of kids was ready for pajamas. In Granada there were 3 exceptions to the strike outs on good food for the whole family. For breakfast there was the Choco Museum. All you can eat, a fabulous variety of local favorites like gallo pinto and salty cheese, but also things like made to order chocolate crepes, fresh fruit, and friend potatoes... and my favorite... chocolate tea.
Lunch was usually at home, but if we were out strolling we tried to make our way over to Pan De Vida bakery. Run by a Canadian ex-pat, it's a laid back, incredibly welcoming little corner of baking goodness. Andrea expertly whips up crusty loaves, cinnamon buns, banana breads, and a focaccia so big and so fresh and so delicious it almost brought me to tears. She is upbeat, full of local knowledge, and even made us some gluten free goodies to take on the road.
Our favorite dinner spot was the hardest to find and the last place we ate in Granada before moving on. We read rave reviews about El Garaje, but two scouting missions proved fruitless in finding it. We asked around and locals would shrug. It ends up that it wasn't all that far from our house, tucked into a cute little back road neighborhood, with a sign and everything. The gringo couple who live there run the whole little outfit themselves. Customers sit in their beautifully renovated garage space, the menu for the evening is on a wall sized chalkboard, and the the wife cooks right there in their tricked out gourmet kitchen while the husband takes on waiter and busboy duties. The food was original, fresh, and made everyone in the family happy. Win!
Maybe if I return to Granada with mature older children, or (gasp) no children at all, then I might find the time to explore the culinary wonders that are hidden around town. But for our trip, food was a struggle each and every day. And I was grateful for the gems we found, and for toast and granola bars.