Sunday, December 6, 2009

Colombia - Bandeya Paisa

Lonely Planet says Colombia is back and it’s now safe to visit. The country is in transition from being the homicide capital of the world to being a paradise. But who knows how long they will be in this transition. Since the 1960s left-wing insurgents and right-wing paramilitaries have been engaged in the continent’s longest-running armed conflict. Violence escalated in the 1990s fueled by the cocaine trade.

My dad was in Colombia on business in 2003. Since he works in the anti-terrorism division for the U.S. government he met with the police in Bogotá. Their meetings were delayed since a drug gang had massacred 20-30 police officers and everyone was busy going to funerals. My dad’s constant escort, a police major, had a bounty on his head and drug lords had threatened to kill him and his family. When my dad went to the police base he had to take a helicopter in because the roads to the base were too unsafe.

Despite the violence, Colombia could very well be the favorite tourist destination in South America, according to Lonely Planet. It definitely has all the makings - beautiful climate, diverse terrains, a rich mixture of people and good food. For our Colombian meal we had Bandeja Pais,a a large platter of food that is very popular and typical of a Colombian dish. It’s a plate of grilled steak, pork loin, Chorizo sausages, rice and red beans, avocado, sweet banana chips and topped with a fried egg. We loved it. It was easy to make and we had so much food we were able to eat it again the next night.

Another popular dish is hormiga culona, a meal of fried ants. During the rainy season the ants are harvested, soaked in salty water and roasted in a ceramic pot. If I ever go to Colombia I’ll make sure I try it.

I would love to visit Colombia but I hope they have the strength to move forward and out of this dark period of drugs and violence. They need to move on and go back to a better time. Sometimes you have to go back to move forward, and even then, it’s a long way to paradise.

Bandeya Paisa

Grilled steak
Pork loin
Chorizo sausages
Red Beans
Sweet banana chips
Eggs (fried)

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