An interpreting assignment in Bogotá was offered so I jumped on it. I flew to Medellín on Saturday, and today my wife and I came to the capital. It’s great to be back in Colombia even if it’s just a week.

Following are some curiosities that I found worthy of a picture.

Yesterday’s menu referred to chicken wing drumsticks as “colombinas de pollo” (chicken lollipops).


On our way to the airport today we passed this load of bricks. They tend to be hollow here and are used for structure rather than siding, although they may be exposed and varnished.


This itinerant vendor was offering pineapples for CP$2500 (90 cents US) apiece.


Colombia, Food, Language, My life, Spanish, Travel

A week in Colombia

Colombia, Food, My life

Colombian soul food

The epitome of soul food for me is the bandeja paisa, a massive sampler plate served in Medellín and the surrounding area. It usually includes rice, beans, powdered beef, chicharrón (pork rinds), fried plantains (pictured are both patacones and maduros, green and ripe plantains respectively), and salad. The crowning touch is a fried egg on the rice. In January, our hosts prepared us a bandeja paisa as our farewell meal. They went all out, including avocado and chorizo and serving my favorite drink, maracuyá (passion fruit) juice. It was more food than I could eat at one time.

IMG_20150105_144537 IMG_20150105_144523 IMG_20150105_144222 IMG_20150105_144215

Hogao is a cooked salsa made of tomato and onion. We ate it on the patacones. The salad is a cabbage salad, but is not much like cole slaw.


For some reason, the meal usually includes ground cooked beef, a sort of powdery consistency.


Creative writiing, Food, Music

A jazz song (my own)

I composed this several years ago when I was writing a story about a musical group. I’ve always been proud of it. It rises from my conviction that healthy relationships are fairly uncomplicated and that common sense is an important component.

One of these days I need to finish writing the tune.

A flaky southern biscuit
A big smear of cream cheese
Some nice crisp bacon
and some OJ, please
Let’s go out on the porch
and work this thing through
about you and me, me and you
Will we be one and one or two

No one should talk about love on an empty stomach
No one should talk about love on an empty stomach

A cocktail is nice
with or without ice
but you got to have food
or your thinking’s not so good
Your stomach is your friend
You should feed it now and then
It’s hard to listen or smile
if it’s grumbling all the while

I say no one should talk about love on an empty stomach.
No one should talk about love on an empty stomach

Da-da-da, da-da-da, da da da da da da
Da-da-da, da-da-da, da da da da da da

Steak tartare
A wine-poached pear
Prime beef medium rare
maybe a chocolate eclair
and then let’s go out there
sort out this love affair

Da-da-da, da-da-da, da da da da da da
Da-da-da, da-da-da, da da da da da da

No one should talk about love on an empty stomach
No one should talk about love on an empty stomach
No one should talk about love on an empty stomach
No one should talk about love on an empty stomach

Food, Multiculturality

Beans on toast

I’m reading a British mystery novel, and the detectives keep eating beans on toast. I had never heard of it before. Apparently it’s a common thing there, like donuts for American cops. Sounds disgusting.

Other literary sources (Terry Pratchett) indicate that vindaloo (hot curry) is a favored meal for cops on the night shift. I don’t think I’ve had curry in decades. I read somewhere that it’s the most popular food in England.

In older British detective stories (most notably by Dorothy Sayers), the restaurants of choice are French, perhaps because Lord Peter is a man of means. When actual British food is described, it sounds heavy and mildly disgusting: steak and kidney pie, sausages and mash, fish and chips, kippers, black pudding, Cornish pasties, spotted dick…

There’s an old joke that says that heaven is where the project is directed by Germans, the labor is supplied by Brits, the Italians provide the entertainment, and the French provide the food. In hell, the Italians direct the project, the French provide the labor, the Brits supply the food, and the Germans are the entertainers.

My dad’s parents were German immigrants. Dad used to buy sauerkraut from time to time. I hated the stuff. I always thought it was made with vinegar, but in a Guideposts article by someone raised in Alsace-Lorraine (the German-speaking part of France), the writer describes vast vats of cabbage fermenting with salt. Later I read about kimchi being buried in the ground to ferment. A friend told me that the Vietnamese make something similar from mustard greens. It turns out that fermenting late crops is a simple way to store them as a winter source of vegetables.

I taught ESL at a language school in Dallas for a year. More than half the students were Korean. Whenever I walked into the classroom, there was always a pungent aroma, something like spicy garlic. At a wonderful restaurant in Koreatown, I discovered its source: we were served a dozen varieties of kimchi, many flavors and degrees of hotness. It made its presence known long after the meal was over.

Seven years later, I briefly dated one of my former students. She didn’t like kimchi herself, but she made me a couple of varieties. I kept them in my fridge and nibbled at them over the course of a couple of months. The kimchi lasted longer than the relationship did. (She was an illegal alien and I wasn’t in a position to deal with that.)

Do you have any idea how hamburgers and hot dogs come across to people from other cultures? When you think of them objectively, hot dogs are quite disgusting (ground up meat by-products stuffed into a sausage skin). Hamburgers are greasy and bland, not tasty like the grass-fed beef of other countries. French fries… bleah. Ketchup… yuck.

Maybe that’s why Subway is my default. My wife, on the other hand, is addicted to spicy wings from the Publix deli.