yellowWhat’s wrong with this lovely breakfast brought to me on the very first morning I was ever in Panama?  We were staying at the Riande Continental Hotel, very near the Tocumen Airport in Panama City, and breakfast was included with our room.  That’s not the case now days.

I ordered a typical Panamanian breakfast and when I looked at it, it was so unusual to me, I had to take a picture of it.  The serving plate was rimmed in a modern design and the pink coffee cup sported the Riande Hotel logo, an attractive nice combination Several times over the next 7 years, I’ve looked at this picture and wondered how these foods seem to always end up on a breakfast plate in Panama.

The jugo de naranja or orange juice is yellow in Panama, not orange.  The yucca and country cheese is light, creamy yellow, the scrambled eggs, the corn tortilla and the smashed, fried patacones are all yellow.  When I think of a “gourmet” meal, I can’t help but think of my first meal in Panama, it certainly was not “gourmet”.

Let’s analyze it - chicken is the most plentiful, most reasonable meat in Panama.  So of course, there would be lots of eggs here and scrambled eggs are everyone’s favorite way of fixing them and practically foolproof to prepare.  The corn tortillas in Panama are made of a stiff corn-mixture, shaped into thick patties, and fried in oil, 65 cents for 10 tortillas.  Here, I got half a tortilla.  The country cheese is a fresh, holey, bland cheese, it costs $1.95 for 14 ounces.    It looks like I may have about an ounce of cheese on my breakfast plate.

The yucca is a very common food here, it’s available at every market at 24 cents a pound.  I peel yucca like a potato, cut into strips, saute’ with crushed garlic, then cover and steam until tender.  The flavor is enhanced when topped with yellow butter.  Yucca keeps very well in the refrigerator, I’ve kept it for weeks!patacones

Here’s the best part of my yellow breakfast, the smashed-fried patacones.  To make patacones, use dark green plantains.  They are similar to bananas, except bigger.  Peel and slice plantains into 1″ pieces and fry slowly in oil, canola oil is popular here.  When fork-tender, smash them is a press like mine or set them on your cutting board and flatten with the bottom of a glass bottle.  Fry them again until golden yellow, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

After 7 years of considering this meal, I’ve seen my yellow breakfast in my mind over and over.  I’ve tried to cut down on my serving portions, I’ve savored every flavor of each dish I prepare, and I’ve tried to prepare every item so it tastes as good as it did on my first morning in Panama.  Wouldn’t you call that a real “gourmet” breakfast?