Arepas have been eaten in South America since pre-Columbian occasions. For Mariana Restrepo, they’re a reminder of all of the palms which have fed and formed her.
My household doesn’t have any heirloom recipes handed down from technology to technology. I didn’t discover ways to cook dinner from my mother and father; I discovered to cook dinner by myself, largely out of necessity. I used to be a younger teen when my household immigrated to the US, and my mom labored lengthy hours, leaving my brother and me to fend for ourselves when it comes to meal preparation. Even now, when my mom is craving Colombian meals, she asks me to cook dinner it for her. I’m the one educating her make the meals of her personal childhood, telling her the tales of how I got here to know the recipes.
Sharing meals, particularly sharing the meals I make with others, is a manner of permitting myself to be seen.
After I first began cooking, I relied on my recollections of watching others cook dinner, mixed with my restricted understanding of what flavors and spices work collectively. Later I appeared for recipes in magazines, or these printed on meals packaging. My favourite recipes had been all the time those printed on the bottom of condensed-milk labels. As I grew to become extra assured in my cooking abilities, I developed my very own dishes from a medley of various recipes, utilizing what I appreciated greatest from every one. My first recipe that my household got here to like and request typically was arroz con leche, or rice pudding. I began making arroz con leche after I was fifteen, and my recipe advanced as I did. It went from easy and easy—rice, milk, and sugar—to a wealthy brew of rice, condensed milk, cinnamon, and raisins. Throughout my school years, I simply tailored the recipe to my vegan eating regimen, substituting milk with almond milk. Now, I typically incorporate my love of Indian flavors, including a touch of cardamom, maybe a splash of rose water, and shaved almonds as an alternative of raisins.
Whereas there weren’t household recipes handed right down to me, I do recall my maternal grandmother’s cooking. It wasn’t fancy or subtle. Quite the opposite, it was largely rice, eggs, and lentils. Easy, however all the time comforting. She liked to make eggs for my brother and me, whether or not for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I bear in mind her making very runny eggs, the best way I nonetheless like them. In my grandmother’s home, eggs had been cooked in small frying pans known as cacerolas, designed to cook dinner eggs and eggs solely. If my grandmother needed to cook dinner eggs for the entire household, every egg could be individually ready and served in its personal cacerola. The exception could be huevos pericos, Colombian-style scrambled eggs combined with chopped inexperienced scallions and tomatoes, calmly fried.
Nevertheless it didn’t matter what sort of eggs we had been consuming, or no matter else we had been having for breakfast; our “day by day bread” was all the time arepas, flat, spherical patties made out of maize. Each day began and sometimes ended with an arepa. Arepas had been indispensable. After I was a child, each time we traveled from Colombia to go to kinfolk within the U.S., we lugged carry-on suitcases crammed with solely arepas. Those self same suitcases would return to Colombia crammed with Snickers, Twizzlers, M&Ms, and different extremely coveted American sweet. A good change, I suppose. Whereas kinfolk distant from Colombia longed for acquainted flavors, these again dwelling craved the unique. I didn’t perceive that then, as I do now. Dwelling within the States, I price the standard of each metropolis based mostly on the accessibility of fine arepas. Even after I attended a conventional three-year Tibetan retreat, I made certain to journey with an arepa grill in addition to sufficient arepas to final me some time.
A couple of years again, after I took a Tibetan Buddhist monk of Hungarian heritage to Colombia, my household served arepas each day for breakfast. On the finish of the journey, he joked that he had now accomplished his “Mil-arepa ngondro.” A ngondro is a preparatory follow the place one accumulates hundreds of mantras, prostrations, and so on. Milarepa is certainly one of Tibet’s most well-known yogis and a major determine within the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. So, as you possibly can see, this was a really intelligent play on phrases.
Meals that brings us consolation does so due to the recollections connected to it. I just lately went to my son’s preschool to show his classmates make arepas. In preparation, my mom and I premade sufficient arepas so everybody would have the possibility to eat their very own. This was the primary time I ever made arepas with my mom, and I used to be the one educating her make them. I went to the preschool wearing a conventional Colombian chapolera outfit: flowers garlanding my braided hair, a white peasant-style shirt adorned with ribbons, and a protracted skirt with ruffles that mimic the wings of butterflies fluttering by espresso fields. Educating my son and his classmates put together arepas, I used to be reminded of those that have come earlier than me, those that will come after, and my position in passing down the traditions and tales of my folks. For me, arepas are a reminder of all of the palms which have fed me, all of the palms which have formed me.
Sharing meals, particularly sharing the meals I make with others, is a manner of opening myself up, of permitting myself to be seen. It’s a type of vulnerability. For me, cooking is a manner of caring for these I really like. And whereas I aspire to like all beings equally, my closest pals will let you know my tres leches cake is solely reserved for these I maintain dearest to my coronary heart.