A Happy Peach

Things that make my heart smile…

Food Chronicle…1

15 Comments

Is it me, or is the food that you grew up always the best? It may just be nostalgia, but I love that sort of familiar food. I think it is a lot healthier and offers a richer flavor than take-out. My personal food history is quite varied, as my background is varied. While we adapted to American food culture, we also integrated in different dishes we learned from family friends as well as television and cookbooks, we have also been influenced by introductions to new dishes through restaurants, all the while maintaining a lot of our Venezuelan food culture.

It’s a cuisine that isn’t spoken of very much, but it’s rich, warm and gently flavored. I think a lot of people are familiar with Mexican food, although the dishes you get in Mexico are quite different from those served in many restaurants outside of country. But if I were to compare the popular Mexican dishes to Venezuelan dishes, I would say that many Mexican dishes have good deal of heat while Venezuelan dishes tend to have a savory quality. Both are very good, but very unique which is a good thing if you ever get a chance to travel through Central America and/or South America.

If you hadn’t noticed food has a special place in my heart. I think you can communicate your hearts truest intent with food. I think one of the best time to take note of that is during Christmas. For Venezuelans, Christmas is the time to make hallacas, and it can be a bit of a family production. You have to secure your banana leaves to wrap them. Then you must amass the necessary ingredients: the meat, seasonings, the Arena Pan for masa (it has to be Arena Pan). Even bigger pain is the fact that some of the ingredients are not readily available in the U.S. so you must make due with what you have. Then make the masa, making sure that it has the right texture, this takes skill and experience. After that you need to prep the banana skins. If you are lucky enough to have a production team you can have someone working on the filling, and don’t think the filling is easy either. Getting the right flavor and the pieces to the right size is a triumph in and of itself. Then you need to assemble, package and cook those bad boys. The whole process can take hours, which is why it’s a Christmas thing. It also makes sense to me that in Mexico tamales are made for Christmas too. But for those of you wondering there are differences, the tamal is wrapped in dried reconstituted corn husks, and the masa’s texture is different, the grains are thicker and mixture is made drier. Also the filling is more likely to be simpler like cheese with a roasted chile (a personal favorite) or a pork filling. While the hallaca is a mixture of meat, vegetables and seasonings. Both are very good, and best when you can have them homemade, preferably by someone’s Abuela.

Now that’s old school. And yes when you like a food item in Venezuela you do refer to it as rico (don’t forget to roll your r’s) y sabrosa. 😀

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15 thoughts on “Food Chronicle…1

  1. Mmm comfort food is the best! I can beat my mum’s roast dinners yum!

    • It’s like a food hug huh? Roasts are yum too, I like when it’s a cold day or rainy outside and there is something hot and delicious going on in my oven.

  2. Food has a special place in my heart too tee hee! I never thought Venezuelan uses banana leaves too. I thought its just an Indian-Asian thingy. This dish is very interesting! Danielle, what do you mean by Arena pan?

    • We’re foodie twins 😀

      Yeah, the banana leaf is a big part of Venezuelan food culture, I think because it’s so close to the Caribbean. There are a lot of Asians and Indians over there too. We Asians went everywhere. Where ever you go we’ve settled and made some food there.

      It’s really good, but it’s so unassuming. It’s food from the heart and a labor of love.

      Arena Pan is what’s used for the masa, it’s the brand. The masa is the corn mixture that creates the outside coat, it’s something like corn meal, but the grain is finer and I believe it’s white corn. Funny, I searched for it and it didn’t come up, but I typed in masa and then it came up, but only in Spanish. One day Love, I am going to have to show you how to make it. I was thinking of introducing more Venezuelan food and maybe add in some recipes as well as some Caribbean recipes. What do you think? Do you think that would be something folks would want to see? Is it something you would be interested in?

      • Wait a minute Danielle, you mean you want to write about food more? Do I want to see it? Hell yeah!! I am not very familiar with Venezuelan food so I am very curious. On an unrelated note, I recalled you saying that you are part Venezuelan right? I know Miss Venezuelas are frequent winners of beauty pageants. You must be very gorgeous 🙂

      • Oh cool, there are a lot of easy to make and their quite inexpensive and tasty. Some healthier than others.

        Yup, part Venie. Venezuela is a country of beauty pageants , they start from the time they are born. Thankfully my Mom never went the crazy pageant mom route. As for being gorgeous, I wouldn’t say that, I would say I am happy with the way I look now. I think there was that weird awkward phase in my life where you’re growing in to your face and body, and that stuck with me for a while. Now I feel comfortable with me, and on some days I am really happy with my outfit or my make-up. Like frosting on a cake.

  3. Today I want to be Wendi Deng! She’s the ultimate trophy wife now.

    I grew up on appalling food – my mum can’t/won’t cook and I only ever ate out of tins – I’m trying to teach myself to cook now.

    • Wendi Deng earned her money today. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a gal pop up and take someone down, I don’t think anyone is going to trifle with Murdock anytime soon, they’d be afraid of the wrath of Deng.

      A lot of Mums seem to not be able to cook. I was fortunate that my Granny was the best cook and my Mom is a good cook, and now I’m a pretty decent cook myself. It’s therapeutic for me, except when it’s hot, when it’s hot I have to pick something up. There is no sense in me cooking with my food.

      • I saw that video today. Wendi was FAST!

      • I know, she just went after that fool. Man you don’t mess with an Asian woman, to be honest I would have taken his butt down too. But it wouldn’t have been that girly open palm thing, which is never good in a fight. Girl you got to make a good fist, put your weight into it and just do it. I think I’ve always been the feisty protective type. Don’t worry Tien, I got your back too.

  4. Food is very personal I think. I grew up in a very Ialian environment. This meant plenty of pasta, friend chicken cutlets (for parmigiana), and Italian pastry were/are my comfort foods. As I grew older, I have learned that Italian foor can also be quite light –thankfully!

    • *FRIED not friend chicken, lol! I was just reading Tien’s post and I guess the Friends cast was still in my head!

      • Oh Mindy that does sound like really good comfort food. But I like your lighter versions too. I think a lot of the soups are healthy and light. And a lot of great veggie dishes….mmmm…I love Italian food.

        Haha Tien is in our heads, I’ve got the theme song in my head.

      • Is there anything your family does for Christmas. I can’t wait till the holidays.

  5. Pingback: Christmas Has Me Confused… « A Happy Peach

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