What to Bring a Colombian

It is sometimes necessary to load up your suitcase with food stuffs when visiting Colombian expats.

arepa redMichael: Not a single U.S. food item haunts my taste buds enough to tell visitors from the States to bring the item when they visit. Such is not possible for Colombians living outside their country. They often have a list that turns your suitcase into a food store for their country’s products. There is even begging and pleading to bring these morsels that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Before revealing what foodstuffs weighed down the luggage for our most recent trip, my wife will elaborate some about one country compatriot, and writer, who refuses to deliver these craved items when he travels.

Graciela: My husband is speaking of Adolfo Zableh Durán, a journalist for the El Tiempo newspaper in Bogotá. In his article he explained his position. The basic idea is that if you are going to Arepa yellowmiss these home-country items to an extent that insistence is put upon visitors to deliver them, then do not leave the country.

But Colombians are very family oriented people. Therefore what would be considered an imposition in many cultures is just plan normal for citizens of this South American country. Plus most of my countrymen do not leave because they want to but because it is their only chance at economic opportunity. They do not feel that they left their country, but their country puts limitations on them for staying.

Michael: The actual list of what fits into the airlines 50 pound mandatory limit store varies, especially depending upon the region of Colombian the expat lived, however our stuffed suitcase (that every time I wonder if it will make it through customs) included some of the more asked for items.

Flour to make arepas is usually on the list. The resulting cooked item has been referred to by some Americans as a white hockey puck and tasting the same. Indeed arepas seemed to be served with every type of meal in Colombia or eaten by themselves as the evening food. You find salesmen on the street cooking and selling them hot. And for me it had to become an acquired taste.

Graciela: We grow up on these. They can be with either white flour or yellow corn flour. The flour is special in that the original product was very labor-intensive requiring much soaking and grinding done to the corn to make the final arepa. Today’s packages saves us from that. But this method of making the item gives it a very unique taste. And of course there can be a number of different toppings to go with this traditional food including chorizo, eggs and especially cheese.

bocadillos 640Michael: Bocadillos are almost always on the list. Basically a very sweet fruit wrapped in a leaf. Even Americans love these. On our last trip to the states we brought some to my brother-in-law. Every time I turned around he seemed to be stuffing one in is mouth.

Graciela: We serve the as a desert. That means we eat a piece of cheese along with the bite of the guava and sugar product. Colombians are noted for their panaderias (bakeries) and these sweet items are part of many baked products.

Michael: Of course you have to deliver coffee. In my opinion there is nothing better than the Colombian brew. And really you cannot trust other countries when they say it is coffee from our region. I do not know what they do to it in the processing from bean to your cup but they often ruin the taste.

choco cafeGraciela: As long as we are on that subject we brought with us the requested two large boxes of chocolate covered coffee beans to eat. Seems that previous packages turned into a major hit at the office. So it was not the Colombian who wanted them, but all they people who they work with and had gotten a previous taste.

Michael: I have to admit that almojábanas have a very distinct and enjoyable flavor. It seems that every bakery in Bogotá makes them. My favorite to to enjoy one is with a coffee.

Almojabana640Graciela: This baked item can be, and usually is, eaten anytime of day. They are best fresh out of the oven. So you can see the problem in delivering them to Colombians in other countries. For that it becomes necessary to purchase them from the grocery store in a vacuum-sealed package.

Michael: We invite you to visit Colombia and especially enjoy the wonderful food. But be forewarned, if you know a Colombian in your country and ask if you can bring them something back be prepared for the list.

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