A Taste of Colombia

Day 5

Taste

I love the coffee, I love the I love the coffee.
You know how coffee gets bitter ? Not Colombian.
It’s rich and aromatic– never a disappointment and I am going to miss it.

Not being a meat eater, I may have missed much of what Colombia is famous for but the day I went venturing alone, I happened upon a Colombian treasure–the Arepa.

Wandering into an outdoor cafe, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for having successfully taken the Metro to the end of the line in northern Medellin to shop at one of their big (3-story) malls for SnaZZy finds. Looking at the menu, I realized the items were completely unfamiliar me– even the English version! So I ordered the only familiar food I saw– something with cornbread and cheese sounded like a good red-wine companion. And I was delighted! The waiter nodded his approval, saying, “Ah, Arepa”. It seems that I had chosen one of the signature Colombian foods.

Recipe: www.epicurious.com

INGREDIENTS

1 cup arepa flour (precooked cornmeal)
1 cup crumbled ricotta salata or grated mozzarella (1/4 pound)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Toss together arepa flour, cheese, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then stir in water until incorporated. Let stand until enough water is absorbed for a soft dough to form, 1 to 2 minutes (dough will continue to stiffen).

Form 3 level tablespoons dough into 1 ball and flatten between your palms, gently pressing to form a 1/4-inch-thick patty (2 1/2 to 2 3/4 inches wide), then gently press around side to eliminate cracks. Transfer to a wax-paper-lined surface. Form more disks with remaining dough in same manner, transferring to wax-paper-lined surface.
Heat oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then fry arepas in 2 batches, turning over once, until deep golden in patches, 8 to 10 minutes total per batch. Drain on paper towels.

El YUM!

If you get to Medellin, you must get Pablado in the evening, a magical place to hang out. Venturing down side streets lined with banyan trees where there are outdoor cafes aplenty. Beckoning party lights strewn through the trees pull you towards tantalizing restaurants and enough night life to keep you entertained until the wee hours.

We found several vegan and organic restaurants in Medellin– and they were fabulous. Quinoa has reclaimed its rightful place as a nutritional grain–a complete protein it was a staple of the Incas for 3-4,000 years. The Spanish introduced European grains and it has taken several hundred years for it to regain is popularity.

On the coast of Cartagena, seafood was a good option. The shrimp were both tender and firm, delicious with ginger, garlic and lime.

Within the Walled City, we found an organic salad/wrap shop and loved the taste of spearmint in our green salad– something I had never tried before.

Papayas are everywhere–as sweet as they are tender.
And the avocados are huge, tasting buttery while adding B12 and the good kind of fat.

Colombian food was plenty flavorful but not hot like Mexican food. In fact, we often asked for extra picante to add a little heat and spice.

I will try my hand at making Arepas for the next SnaZZy Threads Open House so come get a taste of Colombia for yourself!

A TOUCH of Colombia


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Day 4

Colombia seems to be a touchy-feely kind of place.
I have a theory that warmer climes breed more extroverts.

Several women literally reached out to give me a hand. They were quick to offer their seat on the Metro and gave my shoulder a companionable squeeze as we struggled to communicate with no common language between us. Is it a coincidence that they seem around my age?

Using a walking stick is an alert to my special needs such as climbing stairs. And I have had enough falls to make me more careful. So, If that’s what it takes to keep on trekkin’, so be it. I am becoming more comfortable traveling with my shiny green, walking stick or my sexy laminated wooden cane. Just one more way to accessorize–a statement of style!

The Smells of Colombia

I Smell

Tangy salt air from the breezes gliding over the ocean, envelope this coastal city of Cartegena, established early in the1500’s. Its advantageous location made it a repeated target by pirates with a nose for the smell of plunder.

Staying 16 floors up, we are saved from the car exhaust of so much traffic below. Instead, the pungent sea air surrounds us from 2 sides– Cartegena Bay and the Carribean Sea and I am reminded of all the many shores that I have been privileged to enjoy. I have always loved hanging out at marinas– a place for characters with never ending stories to tell.

Our hostess offered to take us where the locals buy fresh seafood. That fishy smell was quite a heavy dose, to say the least. And it gave us a peek into how tough life is for many people here. It is said that Cartgena has two faces–we just experienced the local one.

The mix of aromas from the open-air markets and street vendors can be over powering. Meat cooking on portable grills dominate the air. More subtle are the tantalizing aromas from the fresh fruit stands, offering bowls of delicious strawberries, mixed with chunks of sweet smelling papaya, thick skinned bananas, fragrant pineapple, juicy melons and other creative combinations upon which they drizzle a sugary, white syrupy topping. Is your mouth watering yet?

The flowers in and around the countryside of Medellin smell sweet enough to lure the bees into a drunken stupor. The contrast of these two cities, enriches my appreciation of its spicy bouquet.

Taking in the Sights of Medellin, Colombia

A city of 3 million filling a valley and sprawling up the encircling foothills of the Andes Mountains. During the day, the colors are warm orange, foliage .green and baby blue. On the eighth floor, our room is level with the distant mountains, offering a birds’ eye view of lush growth filling in any available space between and above the teeming array of terre cotta apartments, tenements and shacks. Thus far I have not seen 1 solitary home.

The metro system unites the villages above city-proper with cable cars like ski lifts dangling above the metal roofs which are often held in place (or not) by stacks of bricks, old tires and garbage bags full of what– I can only guess. It is surreal.

People, people, everywhere… Walking, bicycling, crazy wild on motorcycles, hanging out of impossibly crowded busses, standing room only on the metro, and disappearing into the swarm of yellow taxis all over the place! Even in jammed traffic, I am impressed with the lack of road rage– never a harsh word, have I heard.

Sounds of Colombia


The hum of the city that never completely stops becomes white noise after awhile. The brakes from the Metro just 2 streets away sound like jets taking off every 7 minutes — screaming late into the night then resuming at 4:00 AM. The metro is a big deal for people living up the mountain, enabling them to come down into the city where the jobs are– something that has changed lives for the better these last 20 years.

Music is constant, beckoning from clubs that are open until 4:00 am. Walking down the streets you will hear a mixture of Salsa, Colombian crooning and more modern hip hop-type rhythms which somehow create a harmony that makes you want to dance. And that Ellioto is a Salsa man!

There are construction sounds because Medellin is growing. In contrast, men pushing carts of sweet papaya, mounds of avocados and potatoes along with many fruits that are unidentifiable to me. They blare their bargains through old amplified megaphones, creating an eerie feeling, a throwback to old wartime movies when propaganda and decrees were announced throughout neighborhoods.

Horns beep, brakes screech and lives bump up against each other, shrinking personal space.
It’s interesting how easy it can be to tune conversations out, when you don’t speak the language; conversely, it can be a pain when you need to relate. I was embarrassed to be so limited in Spanish– it definitely is not a 2nd language here.

And now, we are on the coast in Cartegena where I add the hum of the air conditioning to my description– it is very hot here on the Carribean Coast.

But best of all, there will be the lapping waves– we’re off to explore that now!