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COLOMBIA | Friday, 23 December 2005 | Views [2530] | Comments [1]

Well, just in time for those of you looking for a few pointers on adding a little variety to the Christmas cuisine, I've decided to make an attempt to broach the subject of food.
Initially I made a few mistakes here on the food front. I offered to cook a meal for a family birthday early on into the trip. This was greeted with much enthusiam and as something of a novelty since Colombian guys do not seem to spend much time in the kitchen, that is unless the wife is hobbled and they are forced to stray to the refridgerator to fetch their own beer. The cardinal mistake I made was in assuming that all Latin Americans love spicy food. They don't. The spicy lads are called Mexicans. I decided to whip up a quick throat tickling lentil curry. Wrong choice. A wrong choice made with twenty and thirty guest on the way. Luckily the look of horror on the faces of those who first tasted it, and the way they ran around the room fanning at there open mouths, betrayed the problem just before the shops closed.
Colombians to not seem to like the fiery stuff at all.(I still cause something of a stir at breakfast by putting habanero sauce on my eggs). The second mistake I made was in assuming that they would be happy with a meal without meat. When they had recovered both their senses and the power of speech from the chillies, they started poking around in my pots looking for where I had cleverly hidden the meat. I raced off to the supermarket, bought enough mint and yoghurt to make a bucketful of Raita, onions and cucumbers and a couple of kilos of ground beef. With these and a couple more ingredients I managed to serve up mince and lentil curry with rice, lashings of cooling raita and red cabbage with apples. This washed down with tumblers of my now famous Sangria that, while not perhaps following any particular Spanish recipe had enough Mendellin rum in it to strip the paint off the Ark Royal. It was an unconventional meal but who was to know? A few members of the family probably think it is the national dish of England. Eaten traditionally at birthdays. I was probably drunk enough to foster and nourish such an assumption. What the hell, I might try Dutch pea soup and mince pies on them for Christmas. Conceptual English fusion cookery, like that bod who's dishing up snail porridge at a hundred and fifty quid a head,freezing gooseberries in liquid nitrogen and zapping lobsters with lasers to challenge our ideas on how we get stuff cooked. I've got a few of my own ideas on that. But I digress.
In Barranquilla it's very hard to avoid the constant flow of street food. Much of this is cooked over charcoal grills or barbeques and sad to say for our vegetarian friends, a great deal of it is meat. I was managed to stay away from my flesh gorging habits for the six months prior to my departure but it's near on impossible to avoid eating meat or being sure that what you are filling your face with does not contain a meat derivative of some kind. I have yet to meet a Colombian vegetarian and am not even sure if such a creature exsists. It would be crazy to try to sum up the national cuisine of a country in a few words but below is a grab-bag of the stuff I've picked off of smoking grills around the city. Some of it a little more 'challenging' than the rest. The dark sausage shaped lads are Colombian black puddings, or morcillas, and are pretty much indistinguishable from their northern English cousins. They are very nice and I'm sure would be set off a treat with a few stewing apples or pears. The skewers of beef are called 'chuzos', these fellows also come in chicken flavour. The Colombian spuds are absolutely out of this world. ( I keep forget that the humble potato started it's life in this neck of the rain forest), I haven't tasted potatoes this good since I was a kid. On the 'chuzos' they are stuck at each end of the skewer. Seen here glistening from brushed on oil or butter and ready for a final trip to the grill.
 The big mixed grill at the bottom shows two different sorts of potato. The wrinkly things that look a bit like pigs' ears are actually cows udders, a bit like Manchester melt. These folk are not shy of scarfing down any manner of viscera and seem to eat pretty much everything from snout to trotters. The only thing I've really had a problem with was the cow foot soup which didn't seem to contain anything recognisable, just a few nondescript gelid lumps and was in general an experience I can only describe as sucking warm suet out of tubes of gristle. It may be an acquired taste but I certainly won't be going around for seconds on that stuff. Anyway you might spot a bit of tripe in there. Some roughly stuffed pork sausages and any amount of crackling you like. It might not be everyones cup of tea but I will dedicate a little time on the fruit and veg side to strike some sort of balance. Promise.

Tags: Food & eating





  bob Dec 2, 2006 6:34 AM

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