Ripened Ovary of a Flower

Editors Note: Comment superstar, Maids, was recently in Colombia.  Being a vegetarian and lactose intolerant was somewhat troubling for this traveling foodie.  Here’s her story.

katys-meal-1.JPG maidsjuice fried-arepa-and-egg-1.jpg

So I’m exaggerATING: Colombia isn’t all bad for me food wise. And in fact, I should say again that it is a country with a rich and impressive culinary tradition.

A lot of meaty soups and fishy plates and drunken pigs and all sorts of buttery fried doughy arepa madness…  But in a country where the “platos tipicos” include Exhibit: A, B and C, I’m really just missing my kitchen.

I should however let you in on the details about a very special Colombian fruit that is the perfect kinda starchy roasted nutty tasting snack for a hungry lactard veggie gringuita. (By the way, something to know, Colombia sports a 25% lactard population, and thus lactose-free milk is available at a lot of posh little cafes and at all the Juan Valdez coffee spots, the local equivalent of the Starbucks chain coffee place.  I mean there is something to be said for having the lactose free milk latte available… Never been a huge fan of soy milk in coffee drinks. Ahem, Starbucks, take note please!)

But I digress. 

Chontaduro: okay so it’s a fruit by definition, (you know, as in  the ripened ovary of a flower.) But really, it’s more vegetable-like, along the lines of a mini-avocado with a far starchier texture. Actually, it’s like a piece of boiled yuca, but less thready, or a sweet potato but harder… Clearly, it’s very hard to describe, but you get what I’m saying right? It’s been one of my saving graces on my trips to Colombia and has kept me from melting into nothing.

Served after roasting, it has a buttery yummy flavor and is available in a lot of very poor, marginalized areas.  Colombian women sell these beautiful little red pieces of heaven on the side of the street everywhere from buenaventura to bogota.   When you present the requisite pesitos, they use a razor or paring knife to expertly peel back the thin red skin to reveal the canary yellow pulp of the fruit.  They toss a few perfectly peeled fruit into a paper baggy or plastic bolsa and liberally sprinkle coarse grained salt. (I shoulda taken a picture of my colleagues’ plates of fritanga that night …. damn it.)

kisses and hugs and lots of love,

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  • Maids February 5, 2009  

    This was part of a two email series, the first of which was a bitch session about how I had only had fresh fruit juice (salvation!), white rice and tomatoes for the last four meals…. then I felt contrite and wrote this un. Dude, for the meet eaters out there, does photo A look at all apetizing? What about C?
    Seriously I think the meat thing inColombia is sometimes overdone. Especially when it involves getting drunk with a pig and then slaughtering the pig and then continuing to drink while roasting the beer and liquor filled pig. It comes out looking like “A” and for me that’s the most unappetizing thing I’ve ever seen. “C” is Fritanga but isn’t as disgusting and mystery meat heavy as the fritanga I’ve seen served up to various and sundry colleagues.

  • BS February 5, 2009  

    yup, they all look appetizing. Sign me up.

  • miked. February 5, 2009  

    i don’t want to eat the poor chancho’s face particularly, but i’m sure the other bits are delicious. B looks the best of the three… btw, I think you’re not really a gringuit@ unless your ancestors invaded Mexico.

  • brian February 5, 2009  

    If I can make a note on the editors note – From the rest of the post, I think Maids went to Colombia. Not Columbia.

  • Maids February 5, 2009  

    That’s true Brian… but gans looks like the idiot, not me, so I didn’t think I’d mention it

  • gansie February 5, 2009  

    @brian – you know, you could have just g-chatted me that!

  • BS February 5, 2009  

    And this whole time I was thinking, god I had no idea they ate such weird food at that University in Morningside Heights.

  • spudz February 5, 2009  

    I like the hovering ta-ta’s in that first picture. very appetizing. I have to say that I wouldn’t eat “A”. really a little too real for me. I’d rather the meat I eat not still look like the critter it comes from

  • spudz February 5, 2009  

    and what’s a ripened ovary all about?

  • Maids February 5, 2009  

    @ Mikediiggle – In re the term gringuita:interesting interpretation…don’t you think however that, regardless of the term’s origins, the modern understanding of the word gringuita throughout the Americas now encompasses all females born north of the Mexico border, regardless of ancestry. Had a friend in Ecuador once who called me Gringa Frijolera.

  • Maids February 5, 2009  

    A fruit is the ripened ovary of a flower. That’s what it is by definition. Science.

  • BS February 5, 2009  

    ps – I’m going to Panama in March…do you think they’ll have similar food to Colombia? I’m getting excited

  • Maids February 5, 2009  

    Similar food, yes, as Panama and Colombia were one nation at one time. The fish dishes are the things to have in Panama. It has food similar to the Northern Pacific coast of Colombia. Colombia’s food varies widely from region to region. I doubt they have Lechona (drunk piglet) in Panama…. but I could be wrong. From Panama, I was most bemused by how different their ceviche is from Peruvian ceviche. It’s served in a thick cream sauce and eaten with little cups of crisp bread. Obviously I didn’t try it. The fresh fruit juice is amazing. And the beans are good.

  • miked. February 6, 2009  

    love how you dropped that science, gringuita frijolera.

  • sugar February 7, 2009  

    maids thanks for your story 🙂 as a fellow lactard living in Colombia, I very much appreciate the availability of lactose-free milk at many cafes (although harder to find outside of Bogota); and lactose-free yogurt in the supermarket! the picture on the right, btw, was taken on the enchanting island of Mompos, and I am glad I could only stay 3 days because the fried arepa with egg (as seen in the picture) was so good that I am sure I would have seriously heightened my cholesterol had I stayed longer. There are a lot of great and unusual fruits here, as Maids pointed out, but if you hate fried food and disdain meat, Colombia may not be your foodie panacea. Personally, nothing makes me happier than ripe fried plantain and chorizo, so I’m enjoying myself…if slightly endangering my health…

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