March 18, 2006

What I Did for St. Patrick's Day

Worked. And then I spent all my time on

Also, I forgot to wear green. DO NOT TELL MY GRANDMOTHER.

I spent all my time on because I was researching Colombian food. And I was doing that because I have to do these cultural activities for my class, and if I only show up with a reasonably authentic Colombian dish to this Colombian cultural night that my professor keeps telling me we're going to have, but for which she refuses to specify an actual date . . . if I only do this, then I have two of the three required cultural activities handled, and I can rest secure in the knowledge that I will never have to go see Spanish films with subtitles on campus, see, because she's counting Colombian Night doble, and I already did one cultural activity, so I'll be DONE.

Cook weird food and be set, gradewise? All classes should be run like this.

And yet, here's what I love: I'm 60 miles or so from Juarez and I had to get the Spanish teacher from Colombia. NMSU has gringo Spanish teachers and Mexican-American Spanish teachers but no, una colombiana, that's who I got. No offense to Colombians, but this is not exactly convenient for me, you know? I can buy tomatillos locally, but I'll bet I'm going to have to get an international money order to procure guascas.

Anyway, the problem I am having with Colombian cuisine is that it hasn't been popularized by an English-speaking celebrity chef yet. I have a love/hate relationship with celebrity chefs. On the one hand, once they popularize something, it becomes more convenient for me to make. "Great! Now I can get authentic San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella at the local grocery store! THANK YOU, Mario!"

On the other hand, once they popularize something . . . I'll put it this way, my being a sushi-hater has been damn difficult over the last 20 years.

But the damn Colombians . . . as best I can tell, authentic Colombian cuisine has been filed under the more general category of "Latin-American cuisine" in the U.S. Which is fine with me, except my teacher's Colombian, did I mention? Imagine going to some foreign country's "American Night" to which all your students showed up with packets of Kool-Aid and bags of Big Macs. I don't think it's gonna fly if I show up with something that turns out to actually be the national dish of El Salvador.

I guess now would be a good time to confess that I can't find Colombia on a map, or at least I couldn't until 35 seconds ago. You mean it's part of the South American continent? Get out! Why is everything written in English calling it part of . . . wait, do we include the northern South American countries in Latin America? What does Latin America mean? I thought it meant "all those countries that aren't quite North America but aren't quite the Caribbean and also aren't South America either." What the hell, "Latin America?" It's not like there's a section of the Americas where the predominant language is Latin. Why do we even have that term?

Oh man. I have to stop this before I sound any more like Jessica Simpson did when she thought buffalo wings were made from buffalo, or for that matter, any other time she's opened her mouth.

I figure it this way about Colombian Night: Either no one's gonna show up, or twenty of us are going to show up bearing the most easily-Googled recipe result for the national dish of Colombia.

Oh yeah, and Erin Go Bragh and all that.

Posted by Ilyka at March 18, 2006 03:49 AM in navel gazing

Huh. Florida is lousy with Colombians (not all of them drug dealers), and even I had to look up "guascas." I swear I've seen that stuff growing in my yard, by the side of the road...

The only Colombian food I'm really familiar with, though is arepas (these flat, thick corn fritters stuffed with melted cheese, yum...), but they aren't unique to Colombia; it's just that for some reason all the Colombians down here are the ones selling them from little stands at street events and things.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at March 18, 2006 07:56 AM

You and Steve were a couple of the first people who came to mind when I started this search. I thought, "You just know they sell this stuff on every street corner in Florida." And now you pretty much tell me I was right.

Neat, I've totally spelled "Colombian" wrong throughout this post. Go me.

Posted by: ilyka at March 18, 2006 12:15 PM

Okay, I need to find a recipe for arepas. They sound yummy. I went looking for a recipe a few months back, and ended up finding lots of Peruvian recipes. Some of them looked pretty good, so I copied them, even though it wasn't remotely what I was looking for :)

The cookbook that has become my bible is 1000 Mexican Recipes, but even here where I live some of the regional ingredients are more exotic than anyone carries. I assume because some of the regions aren't represented well in the local population.

Posted by: Ith at March 18, 2006 01:53 PM

Okay, arepas are like the empannadas that I was orignally looking for when I found the Peruvian recipes. Now, I'm not sure if the precooked cormeal flour is the same as the cornmeal in my cupboard or not. Otherwise, I'd make some for lunch.

Posted by: Ith at March 18, 2006 01:59 PM

If you gals don't quit talking about foodstuffs that involve three of my favorite food groups (That Which Is Fried, That Which is Starchy, and Almighty Cheese), I'm going to brain one of you. I cannot possibly get worked up about eating a salad in this state.

Posted by: ilyka at March 18, 2006 02:09 PM

We have arepas in L.A., only we call 'em "pupusas." Yummy.

I'll put it this way, my being a sushi-hater has been damn difficult over the last 20 years.
You're talking to somebody who once was given an invitation to Matsuhisa, one of the premier sushi restaurants in the US, by a generous drug rep. Who was the philistine eating teriyaki chicken? I was!

Posted by: Dr Alice at March 18, 2006 04:24 PM

Your public library probably has colombian cookbooks that would prove useful, as well as, the Oryx Press book of international recipes that children's librarians swear by.

Posted by: Carbonel at March 18, 2006 11:12 PM

Thanks, Carbonel. That brings up an interesting thing for a geezer like myself: This is the first class in which I can recall being told to research something on the internet WITHOUT mention being made of the library. But no sense overlooking hard copy. It's still easier to read for me and just as free.

Posted by: ilyka at March 18, 2006 11:40 PM

Just to report, I tried making the arepas. I think I do need the special corn flour, though the cornmeal wasn't too bad. I think they'll go good with the Black Bean soup I made for Monday's dinner.

Posted by: Ith at March 19, 2006 02:24 PM

As a gringo married to a half-Colombian (with a full-on Colombian mother in law) the best best Colombian dish is "brevas y arequipe": figs with this sweet, syrupy sugary sauce. Just divine.

Posted by: Hugo at March 19, 2006 08:55 PM

True Erinphiles wear blue on St.Patrick's day. It's the national color of Ireland. Green for Ireland is an American thing. Wearing green and saying it's Irish is like going to Taco Bell and saying you ate Mexican. Or maybe Colombian.

Posted by: Jim at March 25, 2006 04:50 PM