“The right way to make Gallo Pinto,” Roberto the cab driver informs me in flawless English, “is with yesterday’s beans and rice.” He pauses, then adds “And you must add Salsa Lizano.”

In the short time I’ve been in Costa Rica, I’ve grown obsessed with Gallo Pinto, the traditional Costa Rican breakfast food, and am learning to duplicate it at home.

When I ask other locals, “ticos”, about their Gallo Pinto recipes, each echoes Roberto’s sentiments: Fry onions and peppers in oil, add the beans and rice leftover from yesterday’s meals along with some cilantro, heat through and top with Salsa Lizano, a salty Costa Rican vegetable-based condiment.

I’ve been enjoying Gallo Pinto for breakfast every morning, alongside large plates of the sweetest tropical fruits I’ve ever tasted: pineapple, papaya, mango. And while I’m equally captivated by another breakfast option widely available in Costa Rica and not the US, Choco Zucaritas (Chocolate Frosted Flakes), there’s no denying that the taste of traditional Gallo Pinto is what I will be longing for after I’ve returned home.

jennifer rhodesJennifer Rhodes is a writer and teacher whose big mouth and complete absence of sound judgment make her a liability in most professional and social situations.