Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Painted Rooster

In Nicaragua, gallo pinto is a constant. This morning I learned it is a constant with a (perhaps tenuous) Massachusetts connection.

Gallo pinto is the Nicaragua version of a dish that is an important part of the diet throughout much of Latin America: rice and beans. The dish is an inexpensive way to provide complete protein, and indeed may be the only substantial source of protein for many people living on a dollar or two per day. For travelers, it is a blessing because it is consistent, easy to find, and thoroughly cooked. For travelers craving fresh food and accustomed to a varied diet, it can become the subject of a love/hate affair after a few days, as it is may be the cornerstone of three meals each day.

Source: Chicken Pics
In looking for a recipe for dhal in Extending the Table, I found a reference to "painted rooster" and it took me a second to realize that this is what gallo pinto (GAH-yoh PEEN-toh) means. In five years of travel to Nicaragua, I had not really thought of it that way. According to the cookbook, the name refers to the coloring of a rooster: a particular kind of rooster. The white rice and dark beans really do look like the alternating feathers of the Barred Rock Rooster, also known as the Plymouth Rock.

I certainly like the image better than the Cuban name for what is essentially the same dish. On menus in Havana, it is common to see "Moros X" as a short-hand for Moros y Cristianos, a reference to battles between black Moors and White Christians during the Reconquista in Spain, which ran from the 8th Century until the expulsion of the Moors in 1492.

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