Rip Off Costa Rica

Many and various are the rip offs in this country…mostly institutionalised and designed to rob the average citizen to the advantage of the government. Nothing new there….

However, there is another type of rip off which really annoys me…

Foreign goods from non Spanish language countries being sold in Costa Rica require an additional label which describes the contents and, of course, its dubious nutritional value.


Heaven forfend that the native population should buy a food item in ignorance of its nature. Despite the fact that to import any foodstuff into Costa Rica requires bureaucracy beyond belief, it is still a good idea that the housewife knows what she is buying.

Not fine, however….

At the application of labels institution…wherever that is…and by whom or by what machine it is done, why is it that the additional label inevitably covers the instructions for use?

Not only that…but the label is particularly adhesive…..

You can try softening it in water…no chance.

Then you try to scrape it off using a knife or your nails…..delicate work and likely to take away the underlying label, the one with the with the instructions, at the same time.

Eventually you either give up altogether or, if of a persistent temperament, try to decipher as much as you can,and then either abandon all hope or open the jar anyway and make the best fist of it that you can.

We do not buy much by way of jars and cans, but Leo had spotted a jar of Jamaican curry mix which he fancied trying, so into the basket it went and, in due course, was exhumed from same to enliven some chicken which I planned to use for lunch.

Then followed the ritual of softening and scraping until I could just about work out that you did not use the whole jar, though quite how much remained concealed….that you browned the chicken and then added the sauce….and by the fact that that was the last line visible indicated to me that you added no water.

Chicken browned, about a third of the jar’s contents added, stirred, covered and, after a bit of thought, cooked on low heat.

On the table, rice served and finally the chcken curry….the sauce thick about the meat.

I thought it would enliven the chicken… certainly enlivened us!

Ye Gods and little fishes! It all but lifted Leo out of his wheelchair!

After a mad rush for dry bread to subdue the blaze and a mango to calm things down Leo said

‘I think we’ll look for a jar where the sticker covers the front label next time….We might not know what it is, but at least we will know how to cook it.’


45 thoughts on “Rip Off Costa Rica”

  1. Hmmm Living in Notting Hill taught me long ago that West Indians like hot stuff!
    Jamaica Patties that resemble the one found in Cornwall, bar the heat!
    Sauce which they say is ‘Mild.’ It isn’t.
    Sauce which they say is ‘Hot,’ it is!
    Just remember, two thirds of the jar to go! Ho Ho!

  2. It called to mind the time a friend had some cans that had “fallen off a lorry.” Yes, really. A lorryload of cans had somehow ALL lost their labels, but friend assured us all cans contained vegetables,eg carrots, tomatoes, etc, He delivered a box of 36 cans. 35 were mulligatawny!
    Caveat emptor,,,

    1. I likw mulligatawny…but there are limits.
      Years ago my parents were visiting us in France and went shopping. Father caught sight of a tin of couscous and decided they would have that for lunch. Instructions? Nae bother…just heat up the tin.
      Except that there were two tins, one the couscous and one the sauce. The sauce was fine….but mother saw the word ‘semolina’ on the other, so accordingly cooked it with milk and sugar.
      The verdict?
      Nae mair …….couscous in this hoose!

      1. I don’t mean to smile at your expense but you’re writing is so brilliantly entertaining. Seriously, I can imagine… I am a klutz in the kitchen. Have been known to mistake salt for sugar. Don’t ask…oh my, the fluid retention! Hugs to you two and the furballs.

        1. Laugh away…as the Readers’ Digest used to say…Laughter, the best medicine!
          All I can say is if any nation wants to put something into orbit, never mind expensive rockets and suchlike, just get a few jars of Jamaican cooking sauce, light the blue touchpaper and Bob’s your uncle!

  3. The very best cooking instructions are the ones that simply read ‘Place over a low heat until there is no response to occasional pokes with a sharp stick’.

    Actually, that’s not true. From memories of days long gone I seem to recall boxes of cheesecake labelled ‘Serves eight’. Hah! Eight indeed.

  4. Baggus, You have done it again! I am so dismayed as to what is happening here, and yet you have made me laugh out loud! I so enjoy you.

    1. I bought a Bombay spice mix years ago when in the U.K. Followed instructions to the letter. All I can say is that if fire purifies I was as pure as the driven snow for days…

  5. Oh ouch! We once used a sauce like that — only the cat was interested in the food it produced but she had to stick her head in a water glass to calm her beating heart! They do that to specially imported ‘foreign’ foodstuffs here and it is mightily annoying 😀

  6. On the other hand, I purchased yesterday a small container of sliced watermelon. It was a clear container. The label said: Contents: watermelon. I was so grateful because I thought perhaps there was a ribeye steak in there. Next will be chickens waking around with bar codes imprinted and labels saying: Contents: chicken. At least we will be “safe.”

    1. Yes indeed. Very mportant to be ‘safe’. That rib eye steak might have been harmful….
      Mark you, in respect of the jar concerned in my downfall, a label stating – in English and Spanish, of course – ‘open at own peril’ might have been helpful…

  7. It annoys me intensely when shops stick labels over instructions though thankfully it does not happen often here, it did in South Africa. We like hot and spicy but that sound like it was extra, extra. There is a limit!! It reminds me of a story from when my brother and I were small kids, he was probably about 14. We went to an Indian restaurant in London. The rule was we could order what we liked BUT everything on the plate had to be eaten. David wanted very hot curry. He was warned several times that very hot in an Indian restaurant meant extra extra. He insisted that he liked extra hot and meal was duly ordered. He did not say a word, he went red in the face, sweat poured off his brow but he eat every bit off the plate. I don’t think he ever eat curry again!!
    Take care and keep safe, best wishes to you both, Diane

    1. Poor lad…but he had the gumption to go through with it!
      We like spicy too…but this was lethal! I just wonder what was left undeciphered in the instructions…..
      Are you still locked down? Stay safe, you two….

    1. For goodness’ sake! No lockdown here, luckily, Small shops – those which survived the initial lockdown – open, but the parks are closed and they have only recently opened the beaches all day instead of just in the early hours…
      What a pain it all is!

  8. I hope Leo has come back down to earth!

    We get lots of really good sauces for silly prices at Noz, but they do always stick the sticker over the vital information, so you’re on your own. In case of doubt I Google the product and see if there are any instructions.

    1. He is down to earth all right…..and cook in sauces are banned!
      I used to like Noz…..never knew what you would find……and Mille Stocks was another outlet I liked. Lovely places for a root round on a wet afternoon!

  9. Poor Leo! Of course, when curry is as hot as that, the trouble is often caused by a sliver of some insanely hot red pepper, the sort of thing you would hardly notice if it jumped up and down and waved at you. Vegetables like this really enjoy spreading their evil throughout any amount of surrounding sauce.

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