Are you Colombian or Venezuelan? (And why is this the least important)

Are you Colombian or Venezuelan?  (And why is this the least important)

(CNN in Spanish) — Neither Colombian nor Venezuelan. American arepas.

The debate that has long confronted Colombians and Venezuelans about the origin of the arepa, one of their most traditional and beloved dishes, can, for some experts, be considered unnecessary, even squeakyTaking into account the importance of these delicacies in the gastronomic culture of both countries from the pre-Hispanic period to the present.

If you want to trace the origin, you must first determine that the arepa is made from corn, a plant native to “tropical America,” according to the Royal Spanish Academy, and that it is the dietary base of the pre-Hispanic continent. Compared to wheat in Europe and rice in Asia.

If you want to get a detailed meaning of the word, the origin of the word arepa takes us back to the indigenous people of Cumanagoto who said “erepa” to name the corn, which later became “arepa,” according to what Venezuelan historian Miguel Felipe Dorta wrote in his book Long live the arepa!.

the comanagotos They are an American Indian people who inhabit the current area of ​​what is now northern Anzoategui Department in Venezuela.

Arepa, the most popular and traditional food in Venezuela, is cooked on a wood-fired iron griddle in the community of Las Violetas in Sucre state, Venezuela, on December 19, 2020. (Photo: YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Experts consulted by CNN agree that the arepa is neither here nor there, but it is a common dish in the kitchens of both countries and dates back to pre-Hispanic times, even when today’s geopolitical divisions did not yet exist.

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Colombian chef Carlos Gaviria Arbelaez, a culinary scholar of Colombian cuisine who wrote the book, told CNN: “The origin of the arepa is American, meaning it is a local product of America.” Colombian arepa.

“Arriba’s history goes back nearly 900 years,” Venezuelan writer Ricardo Estrada Cuevas, the book’s author, told CNN. archeology, indicating a time when neither country was yet established. “It is neither from Colombia nor from Venezuela. It has been taken up in this part of America, in both regions.”

Gaviria Arbelaez insists that political divisions should not be confused with geographical divisions, let alone cultural divisions, when trying to explain the origin of this dish.

“Arriba does not have a passport, he has no nationality card, and they have not obtained a DNI,” says the Colombian chef about Arepa’s origins. He adds that although it is possible for anthropological reasons that the name Arriba originated in what is now Venezuela, what should be highlighted is that cornbread, in general, is a staple throughout America.

“There is a dietary rule on every continent that makes up a part of the people: in Europe there is wheat. In other words, there everything is served with bread; in Asia everything is eaten with rice, and in America corn performs this function. Of the grain In itself Everything is eaten with arepa.”

Arepas are made from corn and can be served grilled in their most common form, or even fried in some parts of Colombia. (Photo by Federico Parra/AFP via Getty Images)

Arribas from here and there: Colombia vs. Venezuela

The arepa is a traditional flatbread made from corn in the shape of a disc and cooked in a hot pan (it can also be fried) and eaten in different ways. It is there in consumption, where it is worth distinguishing between Colombian arepas and Venezuelan ones.

Both experts agree that the origin is not as important as the function that arepa performs in the kitchens of each country.

On the one hand, there’s the Colombian, which is an “accompaniment,” an appetizer to main dishes, Gaviria says, although they can also be main meals.

“Although there are some arepas that are stuffed and eaten stuffed, the vast majority of our arepas are for accompaniments,” says Gaviria of the Colombian arepa. “What do you eat with arepa for breakfast? With an egg, or are there perfect pairings like arepa with cheese, or with chorizo.”

In Colombia, it is normal to serve arrêpita, which are small arepas, with broth, chocolate, or a plate of suckling pork.

There are at least 60 types of arepa in Colombia which can range from neutral hulled corn to pre-cooked corn to combine with any other food, but there are also sweet arepa or even another combination: cassava, rice, potatoes, plantains and so on. Gaviria reviews in his book, “Colombian Arepas.”

A traditional Venezuelan arepa filled with cheese and other ingredients. Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images)

And in Venezuela comes the filling.

“The filling is what makes it different from Venezuela and Colombia,” Estrada said. This filling gives a distinct main dish to the Venezuelan arepa, unlike its Colombian sisters.

“You eat an arepa, in Venezuela, it has shredded meat, it has yellow cheese, and you eat a piloa. You can eat a romera, which is a pork leg with yellow[cheese],” Estrada says of the different types of arepa fillings in Art. Venezuelan cooking.

Chef Alfredo Lopez prepares arepa in the kitchen of the arepa lady restaurant in Queens, New York City on January 27, 2022. – In ethnically rich New York, you can easily eat food from over 100 countries. Perhaps this rich diversity is best served in Queens. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Areeba International.

Arepa, a delicacy with local roots, is considered an “everyday bread” in Colombia and Venezuela, and has become global thanks to immigration.

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It is very common to see stalls selling Venezuelan arepa in Argentina, Chile and Mexico and Colombian arepa factories in the US, which Disney sold in his movie Charm As a food with “healing power”, not because it is medicinal, but because it is a food that calls for family tradition.

“They are quite comfort foods, although they are also part of the daily diet, a very important part of our everyday culture,” Carmen Angel, chef and co-owner of Restaurant Carmen in Cartagena and Medellín, Colombia, told CNN. last year.

“I feel that arepa is one of the foods that almost all Colombians eat on a daily basis, regardless of their (socio-economic) status, regardless of where they live, regardless of their religion,” Angel said.

On the eternal debate about whether they’re from Colombia or Venezuela, Gaviria ends the discussion with something very simple: “I don’t think it’s about fighting,” he says. “This should not lead to exceptions, it should lead to inclusions.”

To summarize the spirit of Ariba Estrada, the author of the book archeologyHe says between his laughs that he won’t get involved in who invented what, but settles the debate with one sentence: “Arepa tastes like what you put on it,” he points out.

Aygen Marsh

"Certified introvert. Extreme coffee specialist. Total zombie defender. Booze fanatic. Web geek."

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