I have always loved food: eating it, making it, or sharing it. Sitting down to share a meal with someone creates a space of conversation and enjoyment. In the U.S., food is so accessible. Most places you go there is a drive through, grocery store, or market down the street. While there is abundant access to those kinds of foods in Bocas Town, the process of eating a meal in Bocas Del Toro has felt so much more intentional. There are a variety of spaces to eat downtown and you can find a delicious sweet treat on most corners. Due to an increase of tourism in Bocas, it has been difficult to find authentic Panamanian meals. To future travelers, I highly recommend seeking locals for information on where the best authentic places are hidden among the tourist demands.
Since arriving in Bocas Del Toro, my favorite meal has been in the Salt Creek indigenous restaurant. On one of our field days, myself and a few other SFS students participated in the tourism practices of the Salt Creek Ngöbe community. Our time there consisted of a tour of our choosing and a meal prepared by the community members. Reflecting back on the many meals I have indulged in so far here in Bocas, I can safely say this meal was the most impactful. The traditional meal consisted of rice, callaloo, mackerel, and heart of palm. The SFS program has developed a valuable and necessary relationship with this community, which has created a strong bond of trust between the students and community members. When special guests are invited to the community, they are presented with fish or chicken caught that day and a heart of palm which is cut down in honor of the arriving guests. While most meals I have eaten here have been very delicious, there are no words to describe the feelings of gratitude and humbleness I gained from sharing in a meal with the hardworking and dedicated members of this community.
So, I can effectively say that it is possible to eat your heart out in Panama, and if you have the chance to stop by any particular places, I recommend: Leaf Eaters, Ciao, La Buga, and The Tropical Bird. Be willing to try new things and get excited for a delicious new side of study abroad.