I hate labels, and while that is a lame statement to start my first blog with, it’s true. Being cliché is lame and calling out cliché behavior is lame too. What am I to do then to describe my first 12 days in Panama as a vegan and primarily raw-foodist? I should probably just chuck disclaimers and proclaim it to the readers of the Kalu Yala blogosphere: I AM A RAW FOODIST VEGAN LIVING IN PANAMA
What does this mean? I eat primarily fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds uncooked–no animal products including any animal flesh (no I do not eat raw meat or fish), milk, eggs, cheese or honey. Sometimes if I’m in a bind I’ll eat rice, squash or cooked sweet potatoes. Besides crazy nutritional questions like where do you get your protein, you might be wondering how I’m making that happen here in Panama.
If you’ve ever been to Panama, you know there is no shortage of fruit. You can find it practically anywhere on the way to any place. If it’s not growing where you are, it’s being sold nearby. In the city there are many options. The closest to Hispania is Riba Smith although I must warn you, a lot of the cut produce and veggies taste like soap. My fellow interns are probably laughing at this, but it’s true! I have yet to discover the source of this mysterious soapy taste, but be forewarned! The watermelon sometimes does not taste like watermelon on the surface. Smaller markets called chinos which are like small convenience stores usually have a small selection of fruits like bananas and possibly slices of melon for 40 cents a pop. The best place to go in the city by far is San Felipe marketplace. A four dollar taxi ride each way, it is the best and cheapest place I have found for fresh produce. There are more pineapples and watermelons here than you have ever seen in one place in your life, and while the produce may be different depending on what time of year you visit, you’re sure to find something tasty, fresh and cheap.
The options are a bit more limited in San Miguel. The chinos here typically have a small selection of fresh produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas and sometimes pineapple if you go to the chino at the top of the hill. Another town called La Mesa has a few options, and is only a 25 cent bus ride from San Miguel. If you walk 5 minutes from the mini super you will find a road side stand with the loveliest people ever selling bananas, watermelons, oranges, pineapples, vegetables and more.
The valley was the hardest place for me to eat because I had to carry a lot of my food in, which ended up getting smushed. I will say though that even smushy disgusting looking bananas here taste great. The valley does have some great options for fruit though, and they are working on expanding their food production. They have a mandarins, grapefruits, oranges, tamarind, and guanabana.
Overall I’ve found my experience eating a vegan diet made up of mostly fruit to be pretty easy here in Panama. It is definitely cheaper than the US, which is definitely a plus. It would probably also depend on what fruits you are eating. Obviously more tropical and native fruits to Panama will be cheaper (and tastier!).