Saturday, July 17, 2010

Aniseed Arepas

My mother and my grandmother are two old-school Colombian ladies. By "old-school," I certainly do not mean that they were involved with the cocaine drug trade nor were they members of the FARC. Instead, they are people who hold on to their traditions by cooking some of the recipes from their homelands. The dish that I that ate most frequently was the Arepa.

The arepa [pronounced AH-REH-PAH] is a typical staple in the Colombian diet because it is yummy, filling and cheap. It is made using white corn flour. These can be cooked in a pan, fried or not.

My mother prepares them a special way. Whenever I smell parmesan cheese mixed with water and this flour, I get chills down my spine. It becomes a Proustian link to my childhood memories of Saturday mornings. Mom would wake early to make 2 arepas per person. She would mould them into thick round dumplings and fry them until they were an appetising golden brown. Then, she would slice them through the middle, place a slice of gouda and join the two halves again to make a delicious warm sandwich.

Gosh. I want one...

Of course, those were the arepas I ate in my youth on Saturday mornings. Arepas are still made in my house, except they are now manufactured on Sundays. My grandmother makes them non-fried (I would say "baked in a pan") and mixes some sugar with aniseeds. THOSE arepas are in a category all of their own. I greatly dislike those! There's just something so weird about them. Perhaps it's the sweet taste when I expect something savory.

At least I am not tempted to feast on them.

If it weren't so detrimental to my health, I would happily spend the rest of my life subsisting on nothing but arepas (and perhaps Stacy's Pita Chips). However, due to being on my wonderful diet, I abstain from munching these little bits of heaven frequently. Fried white corn flour and cheese won't exactly aid me in my quest to lose 40 kilos (88 pounds). Sometimes, traditional foods need to be consumed with moderation.
Oh, and here's an update: as of this morning, I've already lost 5.6 kilos (12.52 pounds). I'm on a roll and I don't want to stop!

Arepas don't necessarily have to be fried so I suppose that I could eat one or two, but I find that their awesomeness decreases significantly in my taste bud ranking scale.

As you have noticed, the aniseed arepas achieve an "oh hell NO" response. These particular arepas, rather than having a golden tan like its more delectable cousin, are in fact the office workers who, due to lack of sunshine, are blanche-white (with brown specks). I think that jealousy of the fried arepa are what makes them so evil to my palate.

They are so evil that they even turn other foods against me. I find aniseeds alone to be pleasantly fragrant, but once they are mixed with flour and sugar...the change is far from pleasant. I hate the stench of these things. Sometimes, when my grandmother wants to warm them a little, she unwittingly places them in the microwave for a few seconds. The odor lingers within the rectangular contraption until I heat a small glass of water for 20 seconds to remove it. If I don't do that, the pungent smell automatically sticks to the following food that I warm in there. Aniseed arepa milk really doesn't call my attention.

Pure. Evil.

And for those of you wondering: my father was an old-school non-communist, anti-Fidel Castro Cuban. Let me be the first to say that a Cuban marrying a Colombian is like a Frenchman marrying a German; they are two completely different cultures.

I'm not talkin' tacos and burritos...those foods pertain to the Mexican identity.

Below is a chart that summarizes some Cuban and Colombian stereotypes.

Each guy is saying the equivalent of "what's up, dude?"

...I still want an arepa, dammit. But not the aniseed ones!

And if you are further curious about another aspect of Cuban culture, I recommend reading about Cuban-Time; that least that will explain why your Cuban pals are continuously late!

Barb the French Bean


  1. Haha :-) You're blog is well written and humourous. I enjoy reading it. I don't know a lot about S. American cultures, so it was nice to be educated too in a small way. Now I want to try an arepa! I hope you get one soon :-)

  2. I would like to get one soon but, seeing as how today is Sunday, that means that the kitchen will soon be filled with...the aniseed ones. *shudders*

    I do have to eat an arepa at some point, but I want to eat it the way that appeals to me(fried with gouda)!

    Have a great Sunday!

    -French Bean

  3. I want an arepa too o_o really good post!

    -Coffee Bean

  4. The next time you come down, I'll make some! ^.^

    -French Bean

  5. New Diet Taps into Innovative Idea to Help Dieters Lose 20 Pounds in Just 21 Days!


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb