Fun Notes on the Culture and Food

In the US, almost no one drinks Fanta. But in Central America, it’s as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola is in the States, with signs and wall posters everywhere. In most of Central America, almost no one celebrates Santa Claus. In Costa Rica, the baby Jesus brings gifts on the night before Christmas.

In Nicaragua, all-night caroling starts the season, along with processions carrying statues of the Virgin Mary. In Panama, boat parades, marching bands, tree lightings, and costumed dancers fill the squares. In El Salvador, it’s midnight Mass and fireworks.

Every Central American country has its own traditions. All, however, have one holiday custom in common: feasting. Chicken, turkey, rice, and lots of sweets fill the table. In every country, these lavish dinners always include tamales, and they are a fantasy worth trying. But they’re a lot of work.

Instead, consider Arroz con Pollo. This festive, colorful, one-dish meal of chicken, rice, and vegetables is a great dish for the holidays—or any other time. Not only is it tasty, but it’s so healthy that you won’t feel guilty about slugging down a couple of bottles of Fanta.