What To Cook When Your Flight Is Canceled: Ceviche

What To Cook When Your Flight Is Canceled

It happened at 3 PM on a Saturday. All of a sudden and without warning. My Sunday morning flight to Belize was canceled. We all feel it, the very real and ever-present stress, anxiety, and burnout compounding day after day. Any trips that were put off for the last 2 years because of the pandemic can’t be deprioritized any longer. This trip was my plan to rest and recharge, and it just disappeared into the clouds without a trace.

I spent over 6 hours on the phone with Delta Airlines. No solution (nor accountability) was in sight. As my SkyMiles loyalty wavered, so did my faith in leaving the U.S. with my sanity intact. By hour 3 into the call, the realization set in that my beach retreat seemed more like a silly childlike dream, based on glitter & gold and completely unreachable. As my husband and I looked at our luggage parked by the door and ready for adventure, a single question emerged: “What the hell is for dinner?”

If you’re anything like us, right before a trip, the bed linens are changed, the kitchen wiped down, and the fridge is completely cleared out. A quick Instacart order needed to happen. But let’s be honest, no one was stable enough to cook a full meal. For weeks, my mouth had been watering at the mere thought of Mayan, Garifuna, and Hispanic flavors, a hodgepodge of all the best that Belizean cuisine has to offer. Having anything less at this point would indeed deliver a final crushing blow in this arduous fight. After all, vacation is as much about the food as the destination.

After all, vacation is as much about the food as the destination.

Amid the chaos of the cancellation, it seemed only fitting that for dinner, I call on one of the coastal country’s simple pleasures: Ceviche. Although the origins of ceviche are disputed between Perú and Ecuador, the Belizean take on the dish brought me much joy during our 2018 trip to San Pedro. Each day, we walked from our Airbnb, along the beach, to ‘Estel’s Dine By The Sea.’ My husband would order the stuffed fry jacks, another traditional Belizean dish, and I, the conch ceviche. There, the ceviche is always served with warm tortilla chips, thin slices of consume-at-your-own-risk habanero pepper, and great conversation with the waitstaff. With the vibe consistently being one of warmth and comfort, it’s up for debate whether it was just the ceviche that kept me returning day after day. Or perhaps it was the calming aura of the locals, reassuring me that time is just a construct; “we are on island time now.” Approaching my 6th hour on hold, I was about to find out.

Could a euphoric slow drip save my pre-vacation glow from just a few savory bites? The 8 ingredient dish has all the makings of the perfect low-stakes recipe that I sorely needed to keep my head in the sand. And although our Atlanta home is a far cry from Caribbean shores promising freshly caught seafood, a quick thaw on our fresh-from-the-freezer shrimp did the trick. An extremely rough chop on the onion, tomato, and cilantro, doubled as an emotional grounding technique, which came in handy as I continued to endure minute after minute of Delta’s mind-numbing hold music. A tactic they use as a form of surrender compliance, I’m sure. As the call continued to stall, the acid from lime juice began to cast its spell over the shrimp. 2 hours later, the ingredients and cooked shrimp melded into a single zesty bowl of island delight, and a path to our beloved Belize was made clear. Sure, making the ceviche was only step 1 in a 12-step journey to sun-kissed freedom, but it was a damn good 1st step.

A week later, we finally made it to Belize. As soon as our luggage met the sand, we high-tailed it to the nearest seaside eatery and put in a double order of the seafood ceviche. If you ever find yourself in San Pedro, Belize, make sure to try the conch rendition. I would offer a few restaurant recommendations, but it is literally impossible to have a lousy bowl of ceviche once you finally make it to your destination. Until then, indulge in this pre-vacation meal. Feel yourself slowly drift into the peaceful state of “island-time.” With how air travel has been lately, you’re going to need it.

Not a fan of shrimp? Give this Snapper Ceviche a try and let me know what you think!

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