When my husband and I lived in Panama, we made the trek to the provincial capital, Penonomé, every week or two. The trip involved half an hour of walking to the closest bus stop, then a bumpy forty-five minute ride down the mountain in the back of a pick-up truck. It wasn’t something to do daily.
In town, we would pick up our mail, phone home, and do some shopping. In our village, we could buy rice, beans, and a few other necessities in small quantities from the little tiendas, but we could only get vegetables from town (we were nowhere close to self-sufficient in vegetables there).
With no refrigeration, and tropical heat, fresh vegetables didn’t last long. We ate well for a few days after a shopping run, but by the end of the week, we were usually down to plain rice.
The most long-lasting vegetable we had was cabbage. A cabbage might last an entire week before it was too wilted or rotted to eat. So every trip to town, we bought a cabbage, and for at least two meals a week, we ate cabbage and rice.
At that rate, in our two years of Peace Corps service, we ate about a hundred cabbages. By the time we left, we couldn’t bear to even look at a cabbage. It was several years before we considered eating one again.
Today, we enjoy about a dozen cabbages a year, most in the form of sauerkraut or coleslaw. The idea of cooking up a pot of cabbage and rice is still repulsive, but with cabbage being a year-round crop here, it’s good to be able to make use of it.