Food in Colombia comes not with the exhilaration of Mexican food. I thought, at one point, that Bogota is like Mexico City only that the food is worse. It isn’t entirely true, but there is some truth to it. The Colombian food is blander, generally, and I have a taste for sauces and flavors in combination. When it comes to the plain flavor of a thing, however, Colombia holds its proper place.
Take, for example, the humble potato. I cannot stand unmitigated potatoes in the USA. I am no fan of eating a potato with just its simple flavor as the flavor and dislike the practice of the baked potato. But in Colombia that is not the case. In Colombia the flavor of a potato is wonderful. They fry potatoes there and the flavor of them is wonderful. My wife disliked the fries, but I think that is due to their not being coated in all the things wherewith they are coated here. I even enjoyed a plain boiled potato, and I did not even get to the glory of potatoes, the little yellow potato. They make a whole soup based on a potato (Ajiaco) and it is rather plain, but it has the glory of the Colombian potato. When we got back to Orlando and ate at the Chili’s in the airport there, I had some fries. Lousy. Didn’t finish them. Bad potatoes.
They make superior hot chocolate there, especially when they make it with milk and not water, though they do water too. We had chocolate with large slices of cheese and old bread in a damp town sometime after dark. Wonderful.
They have these breads that are cheesy tasting: buñuelos which are fried and almojabanas which are not. Both have the hint of cheese and are good with coffee and with chocolate. The taste is not overpowering, but distinct.
I didn’t have a bad cup of coffee all the time I was there. They apparently export all the best coffee, but what they keep is of no mean quality. It was one of the pleasures of being there that one could stop anywhere, or even at church (at church! when has good coffee ever been served at church by the people of the Lord?) one could get good coffee. In the late afternoons you see the Colombians filling up the cafes all along the centers of the towns, talking, having coffee. Nothing like a place loud with the sound of people talking, with efficient service, and good coffee.
The fresh avocado is one of my delights. Had it in at least three meals—all alone with some salt. There they use the large, green avocado and not the small black one one sees around here, though the difference in the taste is not apparent to me, there just is more of one than of the other. Another thing they do well is fried plantain. Nothing like the taste of it to complement anything, just the bare plantain, ripe (it is ripe when the peel has turned all black) and fried, so that it rests limp beside the rice or meat or wonderful potatoes on whatever state they are.
I had a stale empanada, which was a dumb way to have it, but I saw them stacked in ranks like fish inside of glass counters and shunned them and built up the desire to try one, giving way at last. The best we had back in the day were brought by a woman selling them door to door out of a plastic bucket. Hard to come by that when one is just traveling through.
Fruit is good there: papaya with some lemon (in the USA limes and lemons are reversed: lemons are small and green), mango, jugo de guanabana, guayaba, of course, and the banana. I’m not a fruit eater, but in the heat of the day with the dust and traffic of Bogota it was pleasant to enter a dark and crowded restaurant and among other things, start with some fruit and fresh, not powder concocted, lemonade.
Portions are large there, and compared to the prices here, relatively inexpensive. Even though we walked enormously, my appetite was not equal to the opportunity there. Well, knowing what I know now, next time, should it come, I think the eating will be even better.