Seven Days a Week of Rice

I have been a little stumped by what I should blog about. My life is currently in a state of flux and until things are finalized, I don´t really want to publish it for the world to read. So, for now, I thought I´d write about something near and dear to my heart – food.

It´s no secret that I love food. All kinds of food. Mexican, Thai, Italian, Greek, Japanese, Vegeterian, Vegan, Arabian. I love sushi and sandwiches (I really love sandwiches) and can kill a plate of shrimp pad thai. I miss hummus and turkey (which is impossible to find here and when you do, it´s like turkey ham and super expensive). I´m an adventurous eater and I´ll try most things once. I even tried the Mondongo Soup that Cartagena is known for. It´s basically very salty cow intestine bits floating around. It was not my cup of tea. But then, I just don´t really love Colombian food.

The traditional lunch is called a corriente. It´s their biggest meal of the day – and it´s big. It begins with a bowl of soup. I don´t know why everyone eats soup in a tropical climate, but they do. (They did on the tropical coast of Ecuador too.) The soup is usually in some type of meat broth and has big bones from whatever animal they cooked to produce the broth along with potatoes, sometimes corn, and yucca (a traditional vegetable here that has a starchy, potato-like texture). Then you get a plate with some cut of meat, usually beans, plantains, a small salad, and ALWAYS rice. It doesn´t sound so bad, right? And it´s not. In fact, when it´s lentil soup and pollo pechuga (boneless, skinless, chicken breast), it´s delicious! Or it is to eat once a week or so. And now that I only eat it rarely, I really like it. But when I first arrived, I was eating it like a Colombian – daily. And that was absolutely dismal.

While I am a creature of habit, I do enjoy food variety. Even at home my mother was always very conscious of mixing up our meals so we weren´t eating the same things all the time. And here in Cartagena, despite it´s (constantly debated) population size of something over one million people, food variety is hard to find. The people eat this corriente daily. And they eat rice at least once a day – often twice. It´s interesting though. When I was doing a Unit on food all the students told me that they loved Red Dragon (Chinese) or Crepes and Waffles. Why? Because it`s something different. Something they don´t eat everyday. Which begs the question – Why not incorporate more food variety into their everyday lives?

This lack of food variety has driven me to extreme measures. I cook. Like, really cook. And I used to be one of the least domestic women on the planet. And now I can make my own spaghetti sauce. And while a year ago this statement would have meant opening a jar of ragu and heating it on the stove, now it means dicing fresh tomatoes and simmering them over low heat with olive oil, onions, a bell pepper and garlic. This is what Cartagena has done to me! Disastrous, really.

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