Overland miles: 3909 Tacocount: 62 Days without Sodas: 2
Prawns for Breakfast loves vegetables, and vegetables love us right back. It’s no dirty little secret that for some time back in Blighty we maintained a veggie-only day each week. The preponderance of hippies in San Pedro La Laguna has meant that we have practically been able to continue this tradition, enjoying Indonesian tempeh curries at The Buddha Bar, wolfing down goat’s cheese and beetroot wraps at Home, investigating ‘Unicorn meat’ (chickpea patty) burgers at our friend Mike’s new veggie place The Fifth Dimension and even getting unnaturally excited about mixed vegetable pizzas at Alfredo’s. All the while, herds of carefree cows, pigs and chickens skip happily around our feet, without fear of being escorted promptly to the nearest parilla.
But very so often, we crave a hearty plate of meat. And when we do, we know there is only one place to go: Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ @ The Deep End, down by the Santiago dock. For one post only, we’re going to take meat-lovin’ readers to San Pedro’s biggest barbecue – the main attraction at a ‘Good Times’ style pool party every Sunday afternoon – in a series of unexpurgated photos which may make real vegetarians blanch (some organic cabbage). But in an ironic twist, as Clare has explained, this lakeside bar is in very real danger of being swallowed whole itself by the steadily rising waters. So by the time you read this, red-blooded carnivores may have one less meat-cave in Central America. Eat that!
Boom! I warned y’all veggies, this is the real deal: a giant slab of juicy pork ribs, melt-in-the-mouth tenderloin and the most delicious smoked leg of chicken I have ever tasted. All the meat dishes, apart from the burgers, come with a choice of one hot side, two cold and a hunk of either corn or garlic bread. This platter cost Q100 (about £8), which won’t get you a Sunday Roast in the UK these days. It was easily enough for us to share. Whilst we were getting involved we spotted Andrew, a hearty Texan, engaged with this beauty – which I promptly decided to order the following week:
Meet the Flintstone burger: two half-pound beef and pork patties, two thick slices of American cheese, and as much salad, pickles and sauces as you wish. I cannot adequately describe how perfectly tender, moist and flavoursome the meat was – and I have a massive soft-spot for those moreish slabs of sunset-yellow cheese that sat astride each patty. It was the biggest burger I have ever tackled, so the real challenge was in the grapple:
Partnered with a large dollop each of mac ‘n’ cheese and ‘slaw plus garlic bread grilled on the barbecue, this all-American super sandwich was a pretty mean adversary. The Texan had opted for slicing it down the middle and tackling each half separately, and it was a tactic I wished I’d followed as the twin meaty beasts started to slip from the fast-deteriorating bun. But I held on, and through a series of well-aimed parries managed to take this magnificent monster down.
Our next date with grilled destiny was the following Sunday, when I took on the final Flintstone challenge: two pounds of beef ribs, a large serving of Berenjena Parmagiana – an oven-roasted aubergine dish a bit like moussaka – a heap of ‘dirty’ rice (fried with pork), a slightly over-dressed broccoli salad (just to offset the protein and carb overload) and a buttery slice of garlic ciabatta. The dish was so-named because of its uncanny resemblance to that towering slab of meat that overwhelms the cartoon family’s car during the opening credits:
As with the burger, there was a slight dispute amongst our fellow students about the best way to tackle this dish. Garrett, who had taken it on – and lost – last week, suggested slicing the meat into sections and chewing it directly from the rib. But when I attempted this manoeuvre, the beef slid joyfully from the bones without the need for further surgery. Using cutlery to transport and consume it in small sections was generally frowned upon (by our male colleagues at any rate). In the end I decided to carve off the sticky, crispy skin first, then carefully separate and remove the fatty layers, before picking apart and scooping up the gooey ribbons of beef with my fingers. My gameplan for the challenge was to conquer one-part salad/bread to one-part ribs, a tactic that seemed to have paid off, as – rib by rib – I won this (pre)historic battle:
Phew! After a few extreme-meat feats at the Deep End, for our final outing the Sunday before we left San Pedro it was time to chill out and down-size. Opting for quality over quantity, I chose the amazing smoked chicken leg from our first weeks’s shared platter, with creamed spinach, tomato and basil salad and a hefty dollop of bright yellow potato salad:
I have never tasted such a beautifully smoked bird in my life: the skin was charred crisp ’till it was black as the night sky and pretty indigestible – but this simply allowed all those rich, woodsmoke flavours to flow through the extracted juices, and sink through to the creamy flesh beneath. Altogether it was a righteous dish, and my hat is duly doffed to Weston – aka Smokin’ Joe – and his incredible array of southern-style barbecued meats.