Yesterday, Hector and Beatriz were exploring "exotic shops" to find the ingredients for this meal, the first Bandeja Paisa they've made since arriving in the Netherlands more than half a year ago.This protein and carb loaded platter is traditional fare for farmworkers who need the energy. Though Hector and his friend Ernesto are biologists and Beatriz a journalist, they obviously all have a nostalgic connection with this dish. It hails from the Antioquia province and they all, more or less, have roots from that area. Paisa is just another word meaning "from the region around Antioquia".
While Ernesto is pressing limes (with a fork!) for the Agua de Panela con Limón, Beatriz is preparing the eight different elements of the Bandeja Paisa. Frijoles antioqueñas (beans with plantain), chorizo (sausage), costillas de cerdo (ribs), patacones (deep fried plantain), rice, avocado, a fried egg and hoga'o (a tomato-onion sauce).
The preparations give us time to chat. Beatriz recalls how she was the only woman working in the newsroom at the time; her male colleagues would always try to make her do the "beauty queen" type items. I thought this wouldn't be a big deal, just once a year, but it appears that in Colombia there can be different Miss elections every month. But by now there are more women working in the newsroom. Beatriz herself moved on to a position as PR officer for the Colombian Red Cross, where she got to know a lot about Colombian society and where she met her husband, Hector.
He came to the Netherlands to do an ecology master's programme and recounts how one Dutch girl was genuinely surprised to hear universities existed in Colombia. Ernesto quips: "Actually we are used to walking around in grass skirts and hunting with a bow and arrow! These jeans and t-shirts take getting used to!"
One thing that does shock me (though I did know a bit about Colombia's situation) are the references to violence. Casually, Ernesto jokes about his mom running over the "bomb detection mirror" at the entrance of a mall. I didn't even know this procedure existed! The underside of every car that entered the parking lot at this mall was checked for bombs. Well...until Ernesto's mother destroyed the mirror!
He also mentions moving from his childhood home when he was 18, because of an armed robbery during which the gardener was shot to death.
On to a lighter topic: we discover that we were all born from mothers over 35 years old, though Beatriz and Hector are from big families (14 and 7 siblings respectively!) and Ernesto is an only child. They tell me the traditional way to spend weekends with the extended family is to gather at a finca (there is always an uncle in the family that has a farm) and eat and eat. Depending on the family, drinking can also be a way to pass the time together.
Time to dig in...the crisp patacones are great with the hoga'o sauce. Though I wouldn't recommend this meal to people who are watching their weight, it is great comfort food!
Dessert is the refreshing agua de panela made with unrefined cane sugar and lime juice.
A cup of tea and a walk around the block give our bodies time to digest this impressive meal.
(The original post about this meal is from May 11, 2006)