Ardent fans of homemade corn tortillas, papusas and pleasantly plump gorditas know that arepas belong in Latin America’s reigning family of corn-based flatbreads. A staple in Venezuela and Colombia, arepas fill the workaday cook’s most important need: foods that are easy to make and easy to use and never boring.
Early recipes required only cornmeal and water. Most cooks now season with a bit of salt, while some lean toward richer versions with milk, lard or butter in the dough. In Venezuela, arepas tend to be split and filled like sandwiches, while the thinner, leaner versions typical of Colombia are often topped with minimalist fillings for breakfast.
Once upon a time, hens took a break during the winter, waiting for the arrival of longer, warmers days to lay their eggs and hatch their chicks. Although we’ve entrapped them in an endless summer of egg production, it’s good to stop occasionally and remember that so many basic foods, especially the ones we take for granted, are still wonders of nature.
As someone who’s been kicked out of countless grocery stores, camera in hand, I especially enjoyed the contraband video that Carl Willat, a San Francisco-based animation director, recorded with his humble Treo. Although the chain has stopped carrying some of my favorite products — oh sweet, spicy ginger gelato, where did you go?! — I still stop by their SoMa store before any major baking session. Nuts and dried fruit for me, unpasteurized orange juice and onion rye bread for my husband.
As a Californian trapped indoors by East Coast snow, I was running out of things to eat. It was way too cold to leave the house. A whole day stretched ahead, wide and open. If you have a TV, then you’re set. If you don’tâ€¦well, thank goodness for friends who happen to have a big dining room table, a pile of apples in the corner and enough curiosity to humor a restless house guest.
Because, to pass the time, I suggested a lesson on stretching strudel. My host, who once watched his grandfather from the Old World make the famously flaky pastry, had never tried it. We set about updating his memories to include an actual recipe. One day soon, he’ll be able to pass along the tradition to his own little daughter when she’s ready to tie on an apron.
Along with 4 million other people in Washington, I’m trying to figure out how to keep warm and dry while waiting (and waitingâ€¦) to witness history in the making. Fuzzy boots and mittens with hand warmers and puffy rain pants are my own fashion statement for this inaugural ceremony. And while the 44th POTUS settles into his luncheon, enjoying “A Brace of American Birds” beneath a painting of Yosemite Valley, I’ll be making my way very very very slowly back up to Tenleytown…to a crock pot full of warming chili.