Camera: iPhone 12
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
The Life and Times of Ben Weinberg
Entrepreneur, ESL Teacher, Traveler, and Writer
Camera: iPhone 12
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
“My philosophy on enjoying what life has to offer and its libations such as food, drink, or gambling is ‘Everything in Moderation.’”
I find that it is very important to find balance in life whenever possible whether that’s between work and play, relaxation, and exertion, and even abstaining and indulging. My philosophy on enjoying what life has to offer and its libations such as food, drink, or gambling is ‘Everything in Moderation.’ I mean that kind of balance for adults who I usually write for when it comes to being of the legal age for these types of indulgence and regarding what is legally allowed to put as a disclaimer up front. Life should be enjoyed responsibly especially if you’re hoping to find pleasure out of it.
Still though, it can be hard to find a balance of enjoying something too much or not at all. I have nothing against people who abstain entirely from food, drink, gambling, or other risky yet fun activities nor do I think it’s harmful to indulge a bit too much on the rare occasion where someone can go a bit overboard as long as they’re not hurting themselves or others from that kind of overindulgence. However, I don’t think it’s right to deny someone entirely when they would like to enjoy something in moderation nor is it right to indulge their vices so much that they end up either getting addicted to the vice or abusing it when those around them know that it’s become a problem.
You have to be looking out for your own health and well-being especially as you get older and age out of certain pleasures. However, if you have the self-awareness to realize which vice(s) you should stay away from or be extra cautious about, you should work to make sure you don’t indulge as much as you want to. Self-control around different pleasures can be difficult so if you need help from people around you to temper your indulgences or need to stay away from it entirely, there is no shame in doing so. Certain people can enjoy something moderately like a glass of wine or a cigar every now and then without becoming dependent on it. There are those people who are unable to do so at the same time when they play poker, go to the dinner buffet, or bet on a sporting event though.
Certain indulgences hold sway over the individual person more than others, so you must be aware of which vices or pleasures you really enjoy and learn to temper your use or consumption of them. It’s good to be self-aware and exercise self-control so that one glass of wine each night doesn’t become three or four glasses each night or that when you bet money on Fantasy Football once a year with friends, you don’t end up betting multiple times on different Fantasy Sports leagues where you’re losing a lot more money without controlling how much you’re betting.
If an obsession becomes an unhealthy addiction, I think that is cause enough to abstain entirely from that vice or indulgence. If you are being harmed by it or others around you are hurting cause of the addiction, you need to abstain entirely because moderation won’t be able to cut it then. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to give up a cigar or some wine because of you have a gambling or betting addiction, but you just need to recognize what pleasurable activities you can take too far and which moderation does not work. If you like to gamble too much, it doesn’t mean you need to give up alcohol or fast food entirely too as a result.
Part of being a healthy, mature, and responsible adult is recognizing that life is to be enjoyed but to do so responsibly by knowing your own limits both mentally and physically. If your health, money, or relationships are being affected by the fact that you’re indulging too much or abstaining entirely, you may need to rethink your relationship to that pleasurable activity that you enjoy. I do believe that ‘everything in moderation’ can be done for most people who know their limits, who understand what they are doing is legal yet must be consumed or done responsibly and legally and are able to recognize when others are going too far or may need to tone it back a lot.
It’s good to learn about moderation when you’re first in college or in your 20s so as you get older, you form those healthy habits around vices, indulgences, or fun activities that you know require you to be responsible and mature about them but for which you know what is moderate and what is excessive.
Regarding prohibition or having people forced to be abstinent, banning alcohol and making it illegal to obtain, buy, or sell liquor in the United States during that 1920s era failed miserably. Partly as a result, bootlegging and organized crime came about to help fill the supply for alcohol because demand did not go away even when alcohol was illegal. Responsible adults of legal drinking age had to go to ‘speakeasies’ and ‘backroom bars’ to drink, dance, and enjoy their free time after work.
I would argue that during prohibition, the average adult American wasn’t looking to abuse alcohol even when it was illegal, but that they enjoyed having a drink or two with work colleagues, friends, or family after a hard day’s work and were denied that pleasure. It didn’t work for long as that amendment was repealed, and people were trusted by the larger society and government again to drink alcohol moderately and responsibly without issue.
When it comes to alcohol, gambling, and even smoking, adults should be allowed to make their own decisions about their consumption or taking part in those activities. Of course, it is vital to be aware of the negative health consequences or issues that come as a result, but to forcibly make abstaining the only way forward would not make it go away. Rather, it’s important to educate about how to enjoy these ‘vices or pleasures’ moderately and responsibly, while helping those people who overindulge or get addicted to these pleasures, and may need help, support, rehabilitation, instead of judgment, neglect, and punishment.
At the end of the day, adulthood comes with responsibilities in our society including gaining wisdom, judgment, and acting responsibly. Acting responsibly includes enjoying life’s pleasures but to do so in moderation because abstaining or overindulging should be avoided as much as possible, and we should do well to know our own limits and know what a vice is, how to manage it, and what to do when we need to rethink our relationship around one. ‘Everything In Moderation’ is a good start in terms of that relationship but if you want to abstain entirely, you should also be free to do so but be careful as well to avoid overindulgence but if it is to happen once or twice, it is not the end of the world as they say. Be careful, be safe, be responsible, and remember to enjoy life, because we only get one life to live.
“San Juan is an excellent destination for a long weekend or for a longer holiday depending on your preference. I do believe that at least three to four days is necessary to enjoy what San Juan has to offer.”
San Juan is an excellent destination for a long weekend or for a longer holiday depending on your preference. I do believe that at least three to four days is necessary to enjoy what San Juan has to offer. Puerto Rico is more than just San Juan, but it is good to just start out with getting to know the capital city of this United States territory. I have various recommendations to focus on during your stay and there are still some places that I would check out for which I was not able to visit personally. Not only is San Juan a fun city but the weather in the Winter and Spring months will make you want to come back in the future.
Condado Beach can be a bit crowded depending on the time of the year that you visit it, but it is clean, compact, and has enough chairs and umbrellas to go around if you decide to rent one. Personally, I prefer Ocean Park Beach, which is further from Old San Juan and the Condado Neighborhood, but for which is more local, laidback, and is likely to have less tourists. If you decide to split your beach days up, I recommend going to Ocean Park Beach the 1st day if it is closer to where you’re staying and then going over to Condado to explore the neighborhood and to visit that beach on your 3rd day in San Juan.
Other beach options in San Juan include Balneario del Escambron, El Alambique Beach, and Playa (Beach) del Capitolio, one of the great things about San Juan is that the neighborhoods that have a beach are quite walkable and are accessible to the public. While the hotels take up a lot of real estate and have their own areas of the beach for their guests only, each beach is still accessible to the public even if they are not staying nearby, which makes visiting multiple beaches during your four days in San Juan a good way to spend your vacation time there.
However, you choose to get there, you will enjoy the beautiful, quiet, and peaceful nature of the rainforest. It is the largest protected forest in the country and where you can really enjoy hiking, swimming, and even doing rock climbing if you choose to. Parts of El Yunque also have natural pools where you can jump in from meters above or use a rope swing in certain areas. One area that I went to have a naturally formed waterslide with a smooth area of rock formation allowing you to slide down without hurting yourself.
Having a guide there will teach you a lot about the flora and fauna that inhabit El Yunque as well as the kinds of frogs, fish, birds, monkeys, etc. that call the rainforest home there. A trip to El Yunque would not be complete without stopping off for some fresh coffee or some fresh fruits or fried empanadas at a road stand where they wake up at the crack of dawn to start getting the produce ready. In between beach days, I highly recommend spending a full day at El Yunque to enjoy a bit of nature outside San Juan.
La Factoria has a very relaxed vibe, and the bartenders are friendly enough to give you their favorite drink recommendation. While the Salsa live music does not start until 10 PM, it doesn’t take long for the dance floor to be filled with people from Puerto Rico and all over the world who enjoy this fun genre of music. Puerto Rico is the home of many famous Salsa musicians including my favorite, Hector Lavoe. If you come to San Juan, I highly recommend this bar to visit and make sure to bring your friends or family with you!
For dancing and drinking good cocktails, San Juan has a lot of options and that is also the case with its food scene. As the capital, there are several good restaurants to check out with not just Puerto Rican cuisine but also seafood, pizza, and burgers available. My recommendations to check out would first be Kasalta, a famous bakery that even former President Barack Obama visited in his trip to San Juan. Kasalta is known for its sandwiches, local cuisine, but especially its desserts including its Tres Leches cake.
Other recommendations for dinner are La Cueva Del Mar, where they are known for their delicious fish tacos, and I would recommend the shrimp arepa as a starter dish. Lastly, while I am a native New Yorker, the best Pizza place in San Juan may be Pirilo Pizza Rustica, where the island’s influence extends to the pizza where you can order a delicious pizza pie with sweet plantains and shredded beef. It’s a good option for having a nice beer to go with your pizza and has outdoor seating as well to enjoy your meal with a cool breeze from the ocean. Lastly, for the coffee drinkers out there, you must go to La Coffeetera, with excellent coffee to stay or to go before hitting the beach with excellent paninis including one with egg, sausage, and cheese. It’s a great way to start one of your days in San Juan without question.
San Felipe del Morro Castle is not only great for its history but has some great vantage points to see the coastline of San Juan, to see the bay in its full view, and to see the rest of the old city as well. You can really appreciate how much the island has changed in five hundred years but also see that not much has changed as well. If I had more time during my four days, I would have gone to see Castillo San Cristobal, which while younger than San Felipe del Morro, having been constructed during the late 1700’s, is still the largest of any fort ever built in the Americas including the one in Cartagena, Colombia.
To cap off the four days and to really enjoy old San Juan, I would recommend visiting Scryer Rum Barrelhouse and Rooftop for drinks to end your trip to the city. It has an excellent, spacious rooftop, with a pleasant overview of one of the old San Juan’s most bustling streets. You can get the Scryer rum brand that is only made in San Juan and is not exported currently and it’s good to mix with a cocktail or have a beer after at the impressive three-story bar. You’ll be glad to have a refreshing rum drink after a day of seeing the historic Spanish forts and walking the cobbled streets of the old city.
In terms of four days in San Juan, I hope you will follow the recommendations I have laid out but don’t be afraid to add or subtract other activities to bring to your own itinerary. I believe there are a lot of ways to spend time in San Juan and what I laid out is just a sampling of what the Puerto Rican capital can offer you. It is one of my favorite destinations for a short trip and since it was only four days total, you know I’ll be back for another visit soon! For a short getaway, you can’t go wrong with going to San Juan!
Camera: iPhone 12
Location: Rochester, New York, United States
Understanding that you must be able to divide up the two categories fairly and also be able to balance them healthily with our seemingly limitless desires at times is key to being a fully formed individual.
A key part of adulthood is being able to know the differences between knowing ‘what we want’ vs. knowing ‘what we need.’ Understanding that you must be able to divide up the two categories fairly and also be able to balance them healthily with our seemingly limitless desires at times is key to being a fully formed individual. As children, we are taught to temper our desires to manageable levels and to remember to not be selfish especially when it conflicts with the needs of others.
We are flawed as humans in that we often let our wants overtake our immediate needs and that we cannot distinguish the two in terms of actual importance. I may want a new suit but if I only have so much money, do I really need it? Am I being selfish by buying a suit when I already have a perfectly good one at you? These questions are especially important to pose when you have limited money or time to contribute towards either your needs or wants. What we focus on each day shows us if we care more about ‘needs’ or ‘wants.’
It has to be non-negotiable in your own life how your needs come first and will always come first. Your wants have to be considered in terms of whether you actually need them and how much they will actually add that much to your life. When it comes to your wants, you should not only be thinking about their utility in the short-term but also in the long-term. Will you be that much better off not just a day later, a week later, or a year later when you satisfy those wants? A short-term want will be fleeting and may end up not even be worth it whereas a long-term want like starting a business, getting your degree, or moving overseas are often worthwhile investments and satisfactory wants that will put you ahead in your life. If you do want to fulfill your wants, they should be in the interest of you moving forward, learning new things, and developing your interests.
Short-term wants are good every now and then like a new bicycle, a nice meal out with friends, or a trip to a day spa, but the gratification will be short-term, and you can’t rely on those wants to fulfill you in the long-term. Long-term wants are harder to achieve but they often have higher levels of satisfaction. These wants aren’t automatically given to you and you have to work for them but it’s often worth the effort more so than just things being handed to you automatically. Your wants have to be kept in moderation too because if you let your wants overwhelm your needs, you may be left with less than you had before. An adult keeps their wants in check and prioritizes their needs first to make sure that their life is headed in the right direction. Long-term gains have to always take priority over short-term gratification, which may give you happiness but won’t give you fulfillment in the long run.
Your needs in daily life should always come first in terms of securing them. Whether it is water to drink, clean air to breathe, food to eat, and a roof over your head; they are all part of the equation to keep you in good spirits and in good health. Do not let your wants take away from your immediate needs because when it comes down to it, your wants may come and go but your needs are your needs and that never really changes. Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ was pretty much on the money in terms of distinguishing what are most urgent needs are and beyond that, what could be considered wants. We have the physical needs of eating, drinking, sleeping, maintaining homeostasis (not too warm or too cold) but beyond that, we start to go into the wants territory of seeking out self-actualization as well as having a steady purpose in life.
We all need human connection along with friends and family who care about us but that is not given to everybody and that kind of need is something that you have to work for and what you have to ‘want’ in a way. We all need safety and security to carry out our lives but that is something that we have to work towards to and that is not guaranteed when we are born. What we need may not been given to us like friends and family or the security of a place we live in and we may have to take action to turn those needs into a reality by wanting them badly enough.
In Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, our basic needs must be taken care of first as the pyramid shows us but then you have our psychological needs such as love, relationships, friendships, and feelings of accomplishment and goal-setting. As you go up the pyramid, you get into the ‘self-fulfillment’ needs category of achieving our potential, reaching our set goals, and becoming the best version of ourselves through self-actualization. This category is tricky, but we may feel that we need to be fulfilled that way; how hard are you willing to work to achieve that and how much do you really want to achieve it?
I would argue that our basic needs of food, drink, shelter, warmth, etc. are real needs but our psychological or self-fulfillment needs are different in that while each of us need them in our life, they are really ‘wants’ that you have to earn and to work for. Our basic needs are not given to us either, but they are of such urgency that we will do almost anything to have them guaranteed and it often subsumes our other ‘needs’ like love, friendship, or career goals.
What we need to live is our number one priority. Everything after that is supplementary in life. What we want Is important but it’s clear that our wants are endless at times and we need to prioritize with our limited time and/or money what matters to us most to achieve or to have. Being able to prioritize while understanding this internal battle is key to being a fully formed individual capable of holding our wants at bay while getting our needs taken care of.
Lastly, it is important to distinguish between short-term needs and long-term needs. Short-term needs should always take priority over long-term needs, but you can work towards both at the same time. You can hunt for food and still have companionship with a loved one at the same time. You can watch your vegetables grow while you’re studying for your next course exam or replying to emails. However, if your immediate needs are unmet or neglected, your long-term needs will have to take a backseat because they are just not as critical as what short-term needs are in terms of daily occurrence. You need to eat and drink water a lot more than you need to see your family and friends as an adult. I’m sure you would love to see them every day but it’s more likely you would see them once a week or a month or maybe less if you’re really busy.
Your immediate needs can be balanced with long-term needs, however, if you can’t cook for yourself, make money to support yourself, or be able to clean and take care of yourself physically, not many or very few of your long-term needs can be met after. As an adult, you need to take care of the daily details before you can reach your lifelong dreams and goals. What we need vs. what we want is a constant battle taking place in our mind. If we don’t pay attention to how to win this battle by trusting in our innate knowledge of what we are capable of doing to achieve them one by one and what are healthy priorities to focus on, you won’t be able to get very far in life with either your needs or your wants.
Feijoada: The National dish of Brazil. It is delicious, fulfilling, savory, and tasty. There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe this scrumptious plate of goodness. While also prepared in other parts of the Portuguese-speaking world such as Portugal, Angola, Cape Verde, and Mozambique, Brazilian Feijoada is more than just beans and pork. It has a little bit of everything to make it a unique dish that has protein, carbs, and even sugar to satisfy one’s taste buds. The Brazilian Feijoada was born in Recife and developed in Rio de Janeiro but has now spread across the entire country reflecting its status as a beloved national dish.
From Salvador to Sao Paulo and from Recife to Rio, every Thursday and/or Saturday, the hearty Feijoada dish is prepared for families and friends to enjoy together. While there is some variation in terms of what is to be offered on your plate, you can definitely expect to find a big clay pot bubbling with black beans, different pork and beef parts including oxtail and tripe, as well as tongue perhaps. In the Northeast of the country, the clay pot can also include different vegetables such as kale, potatoes, okra, carrots, etc.
The side dishes can vary across the country, but it is quite common to serve couve, a kind of collard greens dish that is chopped up and stir fried adding to its overall flavor. You also can have chicken steak with fried yucca (mandioca) as well as fried plantains (bananas) as a kind of dessert or sweet tooth necessity if you still have room. To mix with the black beans and the couve, you also have cooked white rice, which is nicely mixed together with the meats as well to create a beautiful plate of both Brazilian history and culture.
To clean your palate afterwards, some fresh orange slices can also be added to the plates offered in order to help with digestion. Beforehand, usually, you will be offered a cup of savory black bean broth, kind of like the soup, to slurp down ahead of the feijoada, which can also be added to the dish if you so choose to. Of course, you have baked pieces of bread as well that can soak up the juices and the broth to add on to an already gigantic plate of heavenly food.
What you need to keep in mind about Feijoada before diving in is that you need to eat it on an empty stomach and to clear your schedule for the day because chances are good that you will need a nap and a glass of water after diving in. For those of you who get the ‘meat sweats’, it’s good to take your time and eat slowly. The Feijoada dish is very heavy so it’s good to relax, have a beer or caipirinha, talk with your friends, and make sure you pace yourself since you will be likely not to do anything else for the rest of the day.
This is not a national dish for vegetarians and Brazil is not the easiest country to be a vegetarian in. You can have Feijoada without the pork parts and the beef stew, but it is really not the same in my opinion. Vegetarians can join in on this delicious dish, but they are definitely not getting the same experience as meat lovers sadly enough. I do love that Feijoada is only offered once or twice per week showing that it’s kind of a national pastime to have it specifically on a Saturday and then you can take the rest of the weekend off as you will probably need to after gaining a few pounds or kilograms.
You can have Feijoada for lunch or for dinner, but it usually is only eaten one day a week. The only thing you should really plan to do after eating Feijoada is perhaps watching the big football match of the weekend and perhaps relaxing with a few glasses of water. You can compare it to the Colombian dish of Bandeja Paisa in a way, but the amount of different foods represented in Feijoada is definitely impossible to beat. You could compare it to the ‘soul food’ cuisine of the Southern United States but there’s still no dish from the American South that quite compares to Feijoada. Similar to the traditions of ‘soul food’, there is a complicated and rough history behind the beginnings of Feijoada which just goes to show how resilient people in very difficult situations regarding food can make a beautiful, tasty dish out of almost nothing or the scraps made available to them on purpose. In order to really know Feijoada, it’s important to dive into the history of the dish as well and what exactly makes it unique to Brazil.
From what I have learned, the origins of Feijoada are up for date but since this kind of stew with pork and beans was quite popular among European settlers, it can be inferred that it was brought over by the Portuguese during the colonization period. However, it seems that the dish was expanded upon by the slaves in Brazil who would add other ingredients such as the couve, the arroz (rice), and the mandioca as these were other foods available to them. Gathering all of these foods together and putting them as a mixture on a big plate would be a hearty yet simple meal to have when it came time to preparing it before or after a long day of work in the fields or farms. While slaves were restricted to rice and beans, special occasions such as holidays allowed them to get different pork parts or beef parts considered less desirable by their masters and to throw them together in a stew to help them feed themselves and get more protein as they worked in the kitchens. From the kitchens to the fields to the cities, Feijoada has earned its status as the national dish of Brazil.
Feijoada is very much a creative and improvisational dish where you have to do the best you can with what you have and put it all together when you don’t have much time to prepare a flashier meal. What Feijoada lacks in flashiness, it more than makes up for it in the sheer number of flavors and food groups the dish makes up. Between the rice and beans, the meats, the greens, and the after-meal delight of an orange slice or a shot or two of cachaça and you will definitely be satisfied with one of the greatest meals you could ever have in Brazil.
Camera: iPhone 8
Location: Xochimilco, Mexico City, Mexico
Patacones are one of my favorite side dishes or entrees that you can find in Latin America. It’s a versatile kind of food that can be a side dish with fish, chicken, or beef but you can also make it a kind of entrée by putting two patacones together with a type of meat or fish inside along with lettuce, tomatoes, and other toppings. This food also makes for a wonderful snack if you want to munch on something between lunch and dinner. Patacones are relatively easy to make and don’t take too much skill because the recipe is pretty simple to follow.
Commonly known as ‘Tostones’, which comes from the verb tostar, “to toast” in Spanish are slices or pieces of plantain that have been fried twice over. While they are known as ‘tostones’ in countries such as Puerto Rico, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, etc. They also have a different nickname of ‘tachinos’ (Cuba), ‘bananas pesees’ (Haiti). However, since I have been living in Colombia for almost a year now, I will refer to this delicious food as ‘Patacones’, which is the common name here and also in countries like Panama, Peru, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. You can find patacones of all shapes and sizes across both Central and South America, and there are many ways to put this food to good use.
When it comes to preparing and cooking patacones, you first have to pick up a few unripe plantains (green in color) from the local food market. After buying the plantains, you’re going to have to peel them and then slice into individual pieces that are circular in appearance. You should make sure that they’re big enough in length and width before you decide to begin frying them.
It’s important to put enough cooking oil in your frying pan, and to heat up the pan sufficiently first before putting the raw slices of plantains in there. For the first time, you’re going to want to fry the plantains for one to two minutes on each side until they start to look cooked enough by showing a golden color. One time isn’t enough to make patacones so you’re going to want to fry these patacones a second time to finish the job. However, before you decide to do that, it’s important to remove the patacones from the frying pan for a few minutes in order to get rid of excess cooking oil.
The patacones should be patted down and flattened before being fried a second time in the pan. For the second frying, the patacones should only be fried for a minute or two on each side before they are finished cooking. After they have been thoroughly fried, you should make sure to pound them flat with some kind of utensil that has a large flat surface like a bowl or a pot cover. By the time you’re done, your patacones should be golden, and crispy brown. It’s pretty common to add extra ingredients like salt, or some seasoning depending on if you want this food to be a bit spicy or not.
Patacones can also be served with garlic sauce (ajo in Spanish) or with hogao sauce as is done here in Colombia. You can make the comparison that Patacones are almost like French fries in that you can have them as a side dish or snack without too much effort. It’s easy to make between six to ten patacones to serve you and your guests. If you’re looking for an appetizer or a snack dish to serve friends and family at a house party, patacones are a great option. Patacones have their origin in West African cuisine, and made their way over to Latin America within the colonial period of Gran Colombia during the eighteenth century.
The best thing about a dish like patacones is how versatile it is. You can put anything on top of it whether its’ shrimp ceviche or avocado paste. It can function as a sandwich if you put two of them together with a kind of meat or fish in between to add additional flavor. They’re easy to cook, prepare, and delicious to eat. Be careful though because it’s likely you won’t be able to stop at just eating one patacone.
Whether it’s in the Caribbean, or in Latin America, or throughout the rest of the world, you’re likely to find patacones being served at a restaurant, or being sold as the original plantains in the supermarket. Personally, I look forward to learn how to cook patacones, and serving them to friends and family in the future. Now that I’ve tasted patacones many times and enjoyed this food, I’d like to make my own and have a taste of Colombia when I’m outside of this lovely country.
You can’t come to South America, especially Colombia, Venezuela, and even Panama without trying the local cuisine staple of the Arepa. The Arepa may be the most popular food to try and there is a lot of variety to this food, which makes it quite popular to eat. In countries such as Colombia or Venezuela, Arepas are eaten on a daily basis and are usually served with breakfast but they can also be served with lunch or dinner depending on the consumer’s preferences. Arepas can also be found in other countries such as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, etc. where they are less popular but still part of the local cuisine.
When compared to other Latin America staple foods, the Arepa is most similar to the Mexican gordita and the Salvadoran pupusa. What would surprise most people to learn about the Arepa is that an indigenous group of people known as the Timoto-Cuica created this food to feed the two separate tribes of the Timoto and the Cuica on a daily basis. This indigenous group was based out of the Andean region of western Venezuela and was made up of thousands of people total who were apart of those two tribes.
There are many different types of Arepas and you can mix and match with different ingredients depending upon your own preferences. Usually though, the Arepa is most often made up of ground maize dough or cooked flour to form the basis of this food. Sometimes, you can also substitute flour for yellow cornmeal that is popular in the Santander region of Colombia in the north of the country. In terms of appearance, an Arepa will be flat, round, and unleavened although sometimes they can be served as leavened especially when they are made in the street stalls late at night.
One of the great things about Arepas is there are many different ways in which you can cook them. An Arepa can be baked, grilled, steamed, fried, or boiled. The color, size, thickness, and appearance of an Arepa can vary from country to country or from one region to another. Perhaps, most importantly, you can add any kind of ingredients to fill out your arepa as a delicious sandwich or a platter.
The options are nearly limitless in that you can put on or within your Arepa such as foods like eggs, meat, fruits, vegetables, cheese, fish, shrimp, salad, etc. You can also simply eat it without any additional ingredients too if you just want to have a simple arepa for breakfast. However, if it’s late at night and you have had a few adult beverages to drink earlier, you may want to have an arepa sandwich with a lot of toppings to fill you up.
In order to make Arepas yourself, you need to have a good amount of water and salt to mix with your flour along with some additional ingredients like cooking oil, butter, eggs, and milk. Then, you’ll need to form the dough and shape it so it fits into the form of an Arepa and afterwards you can put it on the grill or stove to start cooking. Arepas can only take a couple of minutes to prepare and cook so it’s one of those foods that you can make in great quantities without too much effort or skill. Still though, that is part of what makes the Arepa such a daily staple of the cuisine is that it is simple yet delicious and there is a lot of variety to it if you are able to put in some extra effort.
When it comes to Colombia, it is probably the most popular food in the country and you can find it in practically every region of the country. In addition, there are dozens of variations on the Arepa depending on where in the country you find yourself. Despite the differences between Medellin and Cartagena, Bogota and Bucaramanga, each of these cities prides itself on their Arepas and would like to claim that they have the best Arepas in Colombia. In the past, the Arepa has become a cultural symbol of Colombia and is sometimes served with every meal of the day regardless of the circumstances, which is often the case particularly in the Antioquia region of the country.
You can find Arepas in many different places whether it’s been pre-packaged at the grocery store or if it’s being freshly prepared by hand late at night at the local street stall in your neighborhood. Wherever you visit in Colombia, you’re likely to be only a stone’s throw away from the nearest restaurant or cafeteria that will be able to serve you a delicious Arepa.
The Arepa has become so popular in Colombia that there is an annual festival devoted to this cuisine staple called the ‘Colombian Arepa Festival’, which is celebrated in the major cities of Bogota, Barranquilla, Medellin, Cali, and Bucaramanga. The festival in each of these five cities usually takes place sometime in between the months of August to December. If you haven’t figured it out already, the Arepa has a long-standing region in South America especially in Colombia. If you can’t stop your mouth from watering, you may want to buy a plane ticket and try this food out for yourself. Be careful though because if you eat them everyday, you may end up gaining some extra weight.
Mondongo Soup is one of those polarizing foods that you encounter where you either love it or hate it. There’s no in between when it comes to Mondongo, which is what makes it a unique kind of food to cover in this month’s edition of cuisine spotlight. The main ingredient of diced or pieces of Tripe (the stomach entrails of a cow or pig) cause some folks to go nauseous while others salivate over the chance to get a big bowl of mondongo for their lunch or dinner.
However, Mondongo is more than what meets the eye and comes with a number of different ingredients that vary depending upon which country or part of Latin America you find yourself in. Part of what makes Mondongo an interesting food is that you can find it in more than one country and each place makes it a little bit differently than the other. I didn’t know Mondongo existed before I started living in Colombia and although I tried it once and enjoyed it, I’m not big on tripe in general while others love it very intensely. Even if you find yourself disgusted by the idea of eating cow’s stomach, perhaps you’ll reconsider after reading this article.
Mondongo is more than just beef or pork tribe. The main ingredients also include various vegetables cut up and chopped such as bell peppers, onions, carrots, cabbage, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. Additional ingredients can include salt, pepper, coriander, garlic, oregano, and cilantro if you want to spice up the dish with some seasoning. You can also decide to add some corn and rice to the soup if you want to make it more heavy, and filling.
Usually, the tripe is soaked in citrus juice or sodium paste before it can begin cooking in a pot. If there are many types of spice or seasoning available in your local supermarket, you can make your Mondongo as bland or as zesty as you see fit. The great thing about a soup like Mondongo is that there is a lot of variety in making it and there’s no right or wrong way to make it. It would be quite a dish to make when you haven’t eaten all day and are ready to dig in after a long day at work.
Mondongo is a food dish most commonly found in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Philippines. When it comes to the specific countries in which you can try Mondongo, there are quite a few that have it available. That list of countries includes Brazil, Panama, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Venezuela, and in Colombia.
In Colombia, Mondongo is a traditional dish for Lunch and is made with a lot of cilantro and is known for having a lot of chicken or beef broth for the vegetables and tripe to soak in. Peas, Carrots, Onions, etc. are the most common vegetables for this type of Mondongo and corn is sometimes added to the mix. In addition to pork and beef tripe, chicken and turkey tripe is sometimes used in the Colombian version of Mondongo depending upon which region of the country you are in.
Mondongo is sometimes known as ‘mocoto’ in Brazil as the Portuguese translation of this popular soup dish. Mondongo is mainly consumed in the southern regions of the country but can also be found in the Northeast where it is known by the name of ‘dobradinha’ when it comes to Panama, Mondongo can be seasoned with pieces of chorizo or pigtails to create some added flavors. Pig knuckles, and feet can sometimes be added to Panamanian Mondongo as a substitute for pigtails or chorizo.
This type of Mondongo can also come with chickpeas; bay leafs, and is served with salads and/or plantains. There is also a tradition in Panama that some folks observe that when a new house is built for a family, they will gather together to celebrate the occasion and have a meal known as ‘mondongada’ that focuses on eating big servings of Mondongo.
In Puerto Rico, vegetables such as squash, pumpkin, eddo, cassava, capers, etc. can be added as well as the salted pork tail and feet that you can also find the Panamanian version of Mondongo. Lemon juice is the main ingredient that helps to distinguish the Puerto Rican version of Mondongo from other countries’ versions. For El Salvador, Their Mondongo is also called the ‘sopa de pata’ where chili powder, coriander leaves help to give it a spicy kick on top of the tripe, pieces of yucca, sweet corn, green beans, and plantains that make up the soup. Lastly, the Venezuelan version of Mondongo is often the only meal of the entire day due to the fact that it is very heavy compared to other kinds of Mondongo.
This kind of Mondongo is served with plenty of vegetables, different types of tripe, pigs’ feet, and seasoning but also comes with a serving of arepa on the side, which can be considered the national snack of Venezuela. The restaurants that sell Mondongo in Venezuela are known as ‘areperas’, which focus mainly on cooking Arepas, but the mondongo dish and the arepa go strictly together in Venezuela. Many Venezuelans make it a priority to eat Mondongo early in the morning before they go to work or later in the night before they go out to party and drink.
Regardless if you’re eating Mondongo in Colombia or Puerto Rico, it is a hearty, fulfilling soup dish that has a ton of variety to it. You can mix and match different ingredients together and decide what kind of sides you would like to serve with your Mondongo. Wherever in the world you eat this dish, you should do so on an empty stomach due to how heavy it is. You won’t need to have any breakfast, lunch, or dinner if your only meal of the day happens to be a big bowl of Mondongo. Enjoy responsibly or you may risk a stomachache. Buen provecho!