Being a foodie in El Salvador is a different game.
It´s not difficult, if you are truly interested in tasting interesting and delicious things. The country is full of gorgeous fruits, herbs and depending on where you are, who you know, and how you shop you can get great milk, eggs, meat and fish (the stuff at the grocery store is crap).
The problematic key is that “who you know, and where/ how you shop”, and it is not the easiest key to get your hands on if you are shy or paranoid. Still excellent food is here.
Finding foodies is a different game as well. The food culture is different, and there really isnt enough cash floating around for too terribly much in the way of San Francisco style snobbery. There is still enought to work with, that you can note the differences in how people think about their food.
I personally think that most people love good delicious food, and can taste/smell/see/feel the difference between great food and bland, over-processed, cheap yuk, regardless of whether they word the reasons behind their choices in the same way I would. Many people have simply never been asked to really think about it, much less talk about it clearly.
Members of the Brew Crew have sensitive taste buds, and the ability to describe what they taste. They have enough interest in the difference between one beer another to talk about it in a way that makes it engaging to (most) customers.
In many cases, it is the fact that we are talking at all about taste, texture and ingredients, that is interesting. It seems to be something that is not commonly done, and I think I know why. I think it is based on false assumptions.
On arrival I was met with several talks about who Salvadorans are, and what Salvadorans like. It sounded like I had arrived in a cultural waste-land, where nobody wanted food to be anything but cheap and filling, where the quality of beer and wine is measured by how much it costs to get drunk. None of it seemed to ring true, (since the talk was normally over Zacapa 23, (SO worth the price)), but since it was Salvadorans telling me, who was I to argue.
Since I now have a great team selling expensive beer to people who are interested in the taste, and the quality of the ingredients that cause it, I can argue with confidence. This is no cultural wasteland. It is a different culture.
People don’t want cheap food. They want great food. Most Salvadorans don’t have much cash in pocket for extravagant dinners. Still, when I started seeing people at my counter who I could tell were not from the wealthy class, I knew the per-concieved ideas about who likes what were wrong.
There are some very very good restaurants in San Salvador, and many more outside. There is another, very anticipated Craft Brewery opening soon. This weekend there was a wine tasting event, hosted by Super Selectos and several wine importers. It was a fairly low cost to attend, and the three day event featured classes in different varietals, regional differences etc. Yet another sign of effort to get food culture moving. How exciting to see all these great things either growing, or arriving.
Yet even in this event I saw some lack of faith. Some “not getting it” if you will. For example, if you were to purchase a ticket for the event at Selectos you would recieve a free gift. Now pay attention because these cues mean the world to how people percieve a product.
What is this gift? A wine glass? An wine bottle opener? a little glass wine bottle topper? A coupon book for a newly minted wine of the month club? ANYTHING that might help them sell wine? Of course not.
The free gift was a cute little box with a disposable toothbrush, and mouthwash sample. It screamed that you ought to be ashamed of yourself for going to the wine tasting, and need to cover up before you drive home drunk. You need to get all the sin off your breath, not take a cab so you can savor the fine and luscious wine all the way home.
From the great marketing minds that would bring Bennigans, Red Robin, TGI fridays and Applebees, Tony Roma´s and Chili´s all in a row, and call it a selection of different restaurants to choose from. (true example). The day Cheescake Factory shows up I´m blowing up the mall.
It is not Salvadoran tastes that are lacking. It´s the perception of Salvadoran tastes, stuck in the minds of the people who make the choices regarding what will be offered here. I will be so bold as to say that for the most part there is a fairly small number of people opening and running businesses, many of whom are in some way connected. This is no evil plot, it´s just how things are, and clearly there is plenty of opportunity for the bold. there just arent many yet. I think “they have decided” who El Salvador is, and reinfoce this decision easily with the lack of well marketed competition. (dont get me wrong…I have no beef with this set. They do well serving very popular food. I’m just using them to illustrate a point)
I have complete faith that humans with tastebuds will get past this wall of bland tasteless and incredibly expensive crud, to the amazing little food stand ´round back, and to the other gourmet offerings some of which are about the same price as an equivalent dinner at Tony Roma´s….just 256 times as good, and past the idea that Salvadoran tastes want anything other than good high quality food.
Props to the hosts of the wine event. Just seeing the advertisement has me on a little wine kick. I’ve decided to make a weekly training out of trying a different type of wine with staff. Thank you to Selectos and Diprisa and the rest of the distributors who threw the event. I salute you for getting the word out.
But Selectos!!!!! Shame on you!!!! A toothbrush? Fire the guy who had that idea. Give a raise to the lady who thought it should be somethng that reminds people to try more wines (maybe a booklet to record your wine notes) (a wine label scrapbook…where you could save the labels of the wines you like so you can buy them again´, and also to think about whether you liked the specific wine or not,…..I got a million of ‘em, lets roll).
Moral of this rant: I just dont like the gift selectos offered and had two shots of Zacapa. That is all.