Abuelo’s Arepas

Rachel, like many millennials, is a big proponent of memes. One of her best qualities is finding humor in any situation, and rarely is she in a bad mood. She maintains a “cool as a cucumber” attitude all the time, which is both amazing and impressive. During fall break, I stayed at her house for a few weeks in a suburb of Chicago with her parents, aunts, cousins, and grandma. Even though I was only there for a few days, the family dynamic was so compelling; eating dinner and breakfast together most days, the Colombian custom of kissing family members on the cheek as a greeting, tía and abuela always making sure we had enough food to eat and at least two coats before heading out the door. Food, both the process of making and aftermath of eating, is a big part of Rachel’s family; her favorite dish is a Colombian food called arepas.

“I think my food would be arepas (basically corn pancakes). First of all, they taste really good and they remind me of Colombia. It reminds me of home because my dad made it for breakfast every weekend when I was little, and my grandparents made it for breakfast every day when I was in Colombia.

I used to make it with my mom and dad some nights. I remember my grandpa would make it every day before school when he lived with us. He taught me and Steph (her twin sister) how to make them. It was the first Colombian food I was introduced to.

I think this food definitely keeps me in my [Colombian] roots in society. Like, you know how people become Americanized? I knew I was turning American but then I would eat this and be reminded that I am Colombian. And even making it made me feel more Colombian.”

The first day at Rachel’s house, Abuela and Tía cooked the entire day to welcome us home. It was my first time trying Colombian food, but as a lover of anything edible, I knew I would enjoy a good home-cooked meal, especially a meal that came from two experienced and seasoned cooks. The first day, we had chicken, beans, rice with shrimp, salad, empanadas, pan de bono, and a lemon cake. The chicken, I still remember, was the best chicken I had ever eaten. Juice gushing out with each bite, sweet, tender, honestly it was surprising that this could possibly equate to the same animal I eat at KFC because this chicken was on a whole new level of delicious.

The next morning, we had the traditional breakfast of hot chocolate and cheese (sounds questionable but don’t judge before you try! it was really good and complemented each other well) and arepas. Rachel’s dad had made them fresh, so they were hot to touch. We were already full from last night’s dinner but the smell itself was too enticing, so we took a cautious bite. Which led to us gulfing down the entire thing in a few seconds. Our tongues slightly burning from our impatience, we rode the rest of the way to downtown Chicago in silence. Arepas are a relatively simple dish; they don’t need to be enhanced with anything to make them taste better, because they are already so good. Sometimes, the simplest foods are the best, especially if they are made by our grandparents.



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