I love food. I love cooking. I love the diversity of foods can be found in Nova Scotia. I love that I have had the opportunity to experience food and culture in Colombia and now I am able to share the wonderful tastes and flavours with my family and friends.
Meeting my husband introduced me to a whole new world of food. When I met him I was starting to gain a better appreciation of different foods and flavours, but I wasn’t very familiar with Colombian foods and traditions. Early in our relationship we travelled to Colombia to explore and visit family. The country is beautiful and the food is diverse and amazing. I am now able to provide a little taste of Colombia in Nova Scotia because of what I learned in Colombia and here in Nova Scotia from family and friends who have immigrated and continue to cook their foods.
The favourite item we brought back from Colombia was a book called The Taste of Colombia from Villegas Editores. We first discovered the book in the airport in Medellin but it was too heavy to carry on our travels so we searched for an English version in Bogota before flying home. We luckily located one of the last English versions available in print. This book highlights the diversity of food and culture within Colombia. There are extensive culinary tastes and traditions in Colombia that have been moulded by geography, cultural variety and civilizations. The cuisine of Colombia has Indian heritage, Spanish and African influence because of immigration generations ago and is varied because of the spices, fruits, vegetables and meats available in different regions.
My husband, his family and our friends from South America have taught me a lot about the foods of Colombia and their home countries. There is a light-hearted but fierce debate among friends from various Central and South American countries of who has the best version of similar dishes and food combinations. One of the easiest and frequent Colombian foods that we cook at home are called an Arepas. An arepas is a flatbread (think pancake) made of ground maise dough. Here in Nova Scotia we make them with Arepas Harina or Harina Pan (a maise flour). The brand we usually find in grocery stores is P.A.N. or Goya and it is available in white or yellow. You can also get a sweet variety, but this is not as popular here. The availability is good in Halifax grocery stores and is also available is some specialty grocery stores in Halifax.
Arepas are common in Colombia and Venezuela. The arepas varies from region to region in Colombia. Different regions use unique ingredients that create delicious and unique flavours. My husband’s family is from the city of Bucaramanga which is in the Santander region of Colombia. The arepas from Santander (Arepas santandereana) traditionally have corn, cracklings, cassava and salt. The combination of these ingredients gives a sweet taste. In comparison the arepas in Bogota, which is in the Cundina Marca region have a blander taste because they are simply made with white corn flour, salt and water. Arepas are usually eaten as part of a meal and may be served with cheese, avocado, jelly or jams and it is very common in Venezuela to split arepas and make them into a sandwich. We usually make arepas to have with eggs at breakfast or as part of a Colombian dinner.
Our recipe for Arepas
Harina Pan (corn flour) – use an amount that is slightly less than the amount of water you are using
Salt - pinch
Grated cheese - we just use what is in our fridge for ease, but a cheese called queso cuajada or queso campesino (both fresh cheeses) would be used in Colombia. These cheeses are similar to haloumi or a semi-soft unripe cheese which are readily found throughout NS.
There is a good step-by-step guide to making arepas on these blogs: http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/04/latin-american-cuisine-colombian-arepas.html or http://glutenfreegirl.com/2008/04/arepas/
Another fun and easy meal we make and usually invite friends to share with us is called Ajiaco santafereno or just Ajiaco (Spanish pronunciation: [aˈxjako]). Ajiaco is a soup popular in Bogota. It is made with chicken, potatoes, corn and a tasty broth flavoured with a herb called guascas. The soup is finished with capers, cilantro, avocado, cream and aji (a fresh salsa type condiment that we make with tomato, onion, vinegar, salt, hot pepper, cilantro and water). The challenge of this soup can be access to guascas. Guascas is the name used in Colombia for Galinsoga parviflora which is a herbaceous plant from the daisy family. In most of the world it is considered a weed. In Colombia it is used to give the distinctive flavour to the broth. We usually stock up on guascas when we travel to a larger city that has Latin American grocers or when we find it in Halifax. I believe it is available at a local café that features Latin American foods called Aroma Latino on the corner of North and Agricola Streets. We made this recently and I documented it with the pictures below. A cool thing about ajiaco is that many of the ingredients can be sourced from growers in Nova Scotia at the right time of year. A recipe for ajiaco can be found at http://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/ajiaco-bogotano-colombian-chicken-and
A Little Taste of Colombia in Nova Scotia
by Elaine Horne Duarte, RD
There is so much more that I want to share about Colombian food but this post would become too long! I brought back a lot of memories from our travels to Colombia, but what we talk about the most is the food we ate and who we ate or prepared it with. Language was not a barrier in the kitchen or at the table. I did not speak Spanish and Juan's family did not speak English, but communication in the kitchen and at the table was easy because we were cooking and enjoying food together.
The great part about learning about a culture’s food is sharing it with friends and family. In all corners of the world food brings people together. I am grateful to be able to add a little taste of Colombia to Nova Scotia.
Ajiaco at a restaurant in Bogota
Arepas stuffed with tomato, avocado and cheese, Venezuelan style
Taste of Colombia book by Villegas Editores
Made at home Colombian food - ajiaco