(Courtesy San Pedro Sun and Casado Internet Group)
When one thinks about gastronomical desires, probably the first thing that comes to mind is gourmet cooking or international cuisine. This might be true for many, but in San Pedro there is a special home-cooked meal that has gained the popularity of being the best to satisfy an appetite that craves an authentic Belizean dish. We are speaking of our Belizean rice and beans. What makes this dish more special is the love and dedication put into the preparation of this hearty meal that is savored by many locals and visitors alike. The rice and beans we speak of is no ordinary dish, it is one prepared by this week's personality and long-time San Pedro resident Mrs. Isidora "Dora" Elijio. Ms. Dora, as she is known as, was born in Hopkins Village on April 28th, 1943. Soon after, her family moved to Dangriga where she attended Sacred Heart Primary School. Finishing school, young Dora stayed at home to help her mother with the daily household chores until the age of 21 when she went to live with her common-law husband Santos Elijio. Together they have five beautiful children (two girls and three boys). Ms. Dora's father would always tell her stories about San Pedro and the peaceful life it offered. The stories motivated her to move to the island with her family in 1978 in the hopes of making a better living. Being no stranger to work, she immediately found means of making money by selling Johnny cakes and Creole bread, going from house-to-house. The community welcomed Ms. Dora and her wonderful cooking with open arms. She eventually went on to add fish empanadas, fried fish and rice and beans to her menu. All her homemade dishes were an instant hit but what made it big, was her rice and beans. The key ingredient to her cooking is the time and dedication she puts into its preparation. Forget about the modern ovens, all her cooking is done on an open fire hearth. The process is slow but the end product is finger-licking good. Many years ago Ms. Dora loaded her pot of rice and beans, stewed chicken and potato salad on a wheel barrow and took it to Central Park where she decided to temporarily set up business. The response from the public and the tourists was overwhelming so she made this her permanent location. Since then she has been selling her meals on a weekly basis, rain or shine, from 8:00 p.m. until sometimes 5:00 a.m. At the time Ms. Dora was the only food vendor at Central Park and her food was sought after by the many late-night workers and party-goers coming out of Captain Locos (Big Daddy's now). Her rice and beans is complimented by a piece of fried plantain and home-made "peppa". Today Ms. Dora can still be found at Central Park and her delicious food has the same gusto it did twenty-two years ago. Some say Ms. Dora has become a monument at Central Park and if by chance she doesn't make it there, people immediately start asking of her whereabouts. What makes Ms. Dora very dear to many is her pleasant disposition and friendly service. After all these years she knows her customers' liking and will make sure one gets the particular piece of chicken desired and also takes time to ask, "do you want any peppa, daaling?" She has worked tirelessly for twenty years now along with her husband Santos and together they have managed to buy a well-deserved piece of land and built their home. Ms. Dora had fed thousands of people, leaving them satisfied with the taste of her great cooking. She has also made numerous friends, many who say she is the best of all the culinary artists in "Our Community."
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