Dining in Nicaragua is more about the company and conversation
that it is about the food. Due to this, and the fact that most Nicaraguan arrive
about a half hour late for set meeting times, you shouldn't arrive to a meal
Once everyone finally arrives, drinks are typically served prior to the meal. This
generally begins with a toast of "salud" then followed by drinking and
lively conversation. Pre-dinner drinks may take place away from the dining table
itself, but your host will eventually invite you to the dining table. Let him or
her seat you and expect to be separated from your significant other if eating together;
this encourages greater socialization with new people. Generally the men and women
will eat on opposite sides of the table and this sexual division is also seen in
other forms as men usually stand when women enter the room.
With the arrival of the food, the host will invite everyone to begin eating with
the words "buen provecho." Although the Nicaraguans are fairly
forgiving of foreign dining habits that differ from their own, they do expect you
to keep your hands in sight by resting your wrists on the table. The etiquette for
using utensils though is very relaxed and you may eat in either the continental
style (fork in the left hand and knife in the right) or the "American"
style without any offence made. With some foods, you may be expected to eat with
your hands, generally when tortillas are involved. If this is the case, follow the
lead of the locals.
If dining in a local's home take small amounts of food at first so you can ask
for a second helping; this is a great compliment to your host. As you finish eating,
clean all the food from your plate then place the knife and fork together on the
right side of the plate.
If dining at a restaurant, summon the server by making eye contact (don't wave
or call his/her name). The inviter is expected to pay for everyone present; if you
are the guest be sure to offer to pay, an offer that will likely be turned down.
If you are paying, look to see if a service charge is included in the bill; if so
no additional tip is needed, but if not a tip of up to 10% is appreciated. In more
rural areas tips are not expected at all, but rounding up is still an appreciated
Celebrations & Events
At most celebratory meals in Nicaragua, the people tend
to prefer steak as the entree. Meats are consumed more often and in larger proportions
at celebrations of all kinds and lomo, a grilled sirloin is a favorite.
This is common for birthdays, anniversaries, and other larger gatherings.
Among the many holidays, Christmas is the most important and is one strongly connected
to particular foods. Chicken is usually the main course, but rice dishes similar
to Spanish paella and bread are also essentials.
Another interesting event is La Griteria (December 7), at which children sing house
to house and receive fruits or treats in return, including local specialties called
leche de burra and nacatamal.
The variety of drinks in Nicaragua is quite impressive
and this list begins with fruit drinks and coffee. The fruits used in beverages
vary based on what is locally grown as coconut, papaya, guayaba, pina, and melons
are among the most common fruits used to make juices. Coffee is very common as this
beverage is generally served with milk. Despite the popularity of these drinks,
the national drink in Nicaragua is called pinolillo or pinol,
which is made from water mixed with cocoa and cornmeal.
Among the most common alcoholic drinks in Nicaragua are
beer, rum, and local distilled spirits. In general, beer is the most commonly consumed
alcoholic drink, but there are few local brands of note. Rum is popular in mixed
drinks and for the hard liquor lovers, but again there are few notable local brands.
For an authentic local taste, try the chichi, which is a local corn-based
wine that has been produced and consumed by the local Indians for hundreds of years.
The tap water in Nicaragua should not be consumed. Be
sure to also avoid anything with ice as it may have been made from the tap water.
Salads and fruits could have also been washed in the tap water so be careful with
those foods as well.