We could use a salad

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Colombia 2017
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A gorgeously sunny morning greeted us when we woke up. We only had a few hours in the morning to explore before until our food tour at 12:30. The walk to Pueblito Paisa seemed like a good way to spend that time. We headed north and grabbed a buñuelo and chicken-potato pocket along the way.

Pueblito Paisa is a reconstruction of a traditional Paisa town on top of a hill just south of downtown Medellín. It’s the kind of place you take school kids to learn about historical architecture. Some of the buildings and components of the community are indeed taken from historical sites around the region. The Paisa people cover the most of northwest Colombia – for those of you keeping track at home, that does not include Bogotá (more on the cultural differences between Medellín and Bogotá later).

The hike uphill to Pueblito Paisa was sweaty and slow. Slow because Kat was busily trying to snap pictures of every bird/butterfly in sight. She was unsuccessful at getting any good photos but had a lot of fun trying to remember all the different species she saw. Once at the top we poked around the little square and learned about the traditional flower farmers, called Silleteros from whom modern flower festivals were derived. After exploring the little shops and museum we wandered the paths looking for birds before heading back to the metro.

Our food tour was actually in Envigado, a small town south of Medellín that is still on the metro line. Even though it’s technically a separate town, it feels more like an extension of the city. Quieter and with more traditional housing than Medellín, Envigado also has an older population. We met our guide David in the main square dominated by a large white church and a massive flock of pigeons. David got straight to the point: first stop, empanadas.

We sampled our second empanadas of the trip and then shared an arepa chocolo – a sweet corn arepa with fresh cheese. David explained that breakfast was always an arepa. Period. Anything else is just ‘food’. Breakfast was also always served with a hot beverage, either chocolate or panela (sugarcane water). Coffee was had only before or after breakfast as a separate experience. Good to know the rules. Also, one would never have juice with your morning arepa. This is a complete turn around from Botogá where arepas and orange juice are sold from the same stand.

We wandered past the churro stand but it didn’t have the oil up to temperature yet, so we passed him by with a promise to swing around later. It was time for the market.

The market was small and quiet, with a few older people bustling around their businesses. David, who is from Envigado, sat us down at a stall to sample all the varieties of juice on offer. Juices are sold either with milk or water. First up, guabanana with water – delicious. Next, borojo juice (always with milk) with chontaduro. For this one, you take a bite of chontaduro (which is like a mild pumpkin) that’s covered with salt and honey, then take a drink of the borojo juice and mix it all together in your mouth. This was definitely strange but apparently it cures cancer and is also an aphrodisiac. Double win? Lastly we finished off with our beloved lulo.

Although we had just imbibed quite a bit of fruit, our next stop was the fruit stall. Any attempt to record the names and varieties we ate was thwarted by the speed at which David handed us new pieces of fruit. Suffice to say, some we liked, some we didn’t, but fun was had all around.

Wobbling out of the market we headed toward lunch at La Gloria De Gloria. Gloria served us arepas, fried arepas and blood sausage as appetizers along with iced panela with lemon. The traditional lunch for which Gloria is known is called bandeja paisa – a giant plate of rice, avocado, fried egg, ground beef, sweet plantain, and chicharrón (crispy pork belly).  It is always served with a bowl of beans. David said one must eat this once a week to consider oneself Paisa.

We did our best to eat a bit of everything, and indeed this was the best chicharon as yet on the trip, but in the end we were defeated. We passed our appetizers off to some hungry folks and packaged the rest up for David’s friend. Time for dessert?

With the oil up to temp, the churro man was churning out his tiny fried rings. We grabbed a bag but could each only eat a few before stuffing them in the backpack. David had intended to take us for merengón but the vendor was nowhere in sight. Instead, our last stop was ice cream with fruit and grated cheese on top.

The walk to the metro was a brutal journey. Colin swore he would never eat again. Once in Poblado we walked to the coffee shop of the previous evening and set up shop to digest, work and paint. Feeling refreshed after a few hours we decided the only thing we could stomach for dinner were vegetables. Colin used his google-fu to find us a pleasant hipster restaurant where we indulged in veggie-filled rice bowls before heading back to the apartment for bed.

Tomorrow we hop a bus and head out of Medellín to explore Guatapé.

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