Thursday, 19 November 2009
The arepa is more or less one of the only true indigenous foods to come from South America that is still popular today. This native bread originated from the Northern Andes of either Colombia or Venezuela.
They are essentially made from ground corn or maiz flour, salt (sometimes) and water. The dough is formed and then shaped into rounds, however big you want them, and then either fried, grilled or baked.
I do not know anyone who makes arepas the old fashioned way, and I am pretty sure I have never eaten one either. Nowadays, everyone uses a pre-cooked arepa flour. In the good old days, the days of “las abuelas”, to which everyone in Medellin reminisces about. Those poor old abuelas soaked the corn kernels, peeled them, ground them in their large mortars, known as pilónes. This they then dried, boiled and then ground into an arepa dough.
As you can see, it was a time and labour intensive way. So thankfully for las abuelas of today, it’s a lot easier to make arepas. You can also buy ready made ones as well. Even made with yucca flour. I know! Only problem with these aprepas, is that they are lower in nutritive value and it’s protein is decreased by half.
Most people in cities and large towns today buy premade arepas. It’s easier, and less time consuming. As city inhabitants have no time for to spend 5 or 10 minutes mixing the flour with water and salt, and then shaping them,.
I have become less of a fan of arepas as time goes by, except for arepa de chocolo. It’s the only one I like nowadays. They are so sweet, and have some flavour.
Arepas are generally eaten at breakfast time. Grilled, then buttered and a tad of salt on it. Then as my wife likes it, with lashings of quesito smothered on it.
There are countless restaurants selling arepas with all types of toppings, and I mean all types of toppings. These range from a simple cheese topping, to the Antioqeunan. Which as you would imagine comes with beans, platano, chiccaron and slices of avocado as a garnish. Hideous. But we are in Antioquia. Don’t go to a sushi bar, you get a paisa roll. See ingredients above. Not good.
In the area we are currently in, visitors from the city come here to sample a bit of the countryside for the day or night if they have a farm nearby. There is a small outdoor place that has a giant sign saying “Ricas Arepas”. From Friday nights to Sunday afternoons it is jammed packed with those city folk getting their fill of handmade arepas, that little bit of the country life they desire so much. Thing is I’ve eaten the arepas from there. They are ok, but not rica as they claim.
There is another type of arepa,, called arepa de mote. It’s made with the ashes of a fire. They are mixed in with the flour, and it gives the arepa a greyer colour, and some added taste and texture.
There was a story going around about a small town, somewhere in Antioquia, that the entire population came down with some serious illness. After many months of doctors testing, patients getting more and more sick. Noone coming up with anything. Someone discovered that the inhabitants of this pueblo had been eating arepa de mote a few times a day for many many years.
It turned out that the ashes added to the flour, in small doses is actually quite beneficial to the digestive system. But continual doses over a long period of time have the opposite effect.
Thing is, this being Colombia, the people of this town apparently still regularly eat their favourite arepa de mote.
Will they ever learn. I doubt it.