I stood peeling plantains in the outdoor kitchen at El Pretexto, a culinary farm and lodge in the mountain town of Cayey, Puerto Rico, an hour south of San Juan. Because it was a clear day, I could see all the way to where the pale sky met the Caribbean Sea.

I was one of five food lovers experiencing the lodge’s new weeklong culinary program. Chef Luis Cabrero was teaching us how to make pasteles, a Puerto Rican specialty that combines stewed pork with a masa of plantains, green bananas, and root vegetables. We spooned the mixture into banana leaves, folded and tied the bundles closed, and put them in a pot of water to steam. Then we all gathered around a long wooden table to taste the fruits of our labors.

It was quite a change from my first visit to the farm, nearly five years ago, in June 2018. Hurricanes Irma and Maria had devastated the island the previous fall, and when I arrived, El Pretexto had only just opened for business, with two villas. Today, the estate is flourishing, with almost four acres of plantains, breadfruit, coffee, cacao, grapefruit, avocado, and chayote squash, plus flocks of chickens and ducks. Crystal Díaz, El Pretexto’s proprietor, added two more villas, each with a kitchenette and a deck for soaking in the mountain views (one villa also has a heated plunge pool).

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