Food Quest Turned Mangrove Porn

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Colombia  , Bolívar,
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An amazing meal of local food still has yet to cross my path.  And once again I exited Exito with dinner items proving to be the tastiest of the day.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that store bought strawberry soymilk, cream cheese and rolls would be a Latin American country's highest level of culinary achievement.

Poking around online to see how others define good food led to some website called streetdirectory which explains the concept as follows...

.......tastes, looks and smells delicious, is fresh, wholesome and pure , has nutritional value and will do no harm if eaten in moderation, is produced by methods, traditional or modern, the producer would be proud to show the public, has had minimal processing, has been humane in the keeping and slaughter of animals, has minimal chemical content, contains no unnecessary additives.

Look, I know that knocks out most American food, but Colombia are you listening?   Do you want to turn into another culinary hell like back home?  I know you have fine dining that is Italian, Japanese, or whatever but where is your tasty local street heritage?   Has it always been over cooked or deep fried junk with no fresh vegetables and proper nutrition?

WIth all this in mind, I have an observation about the fried plantains that seem a beloved accompaniment to the empenadas and oily eggs I picked at for breakfast.  A plantain is basically a banana whose lengthwise slices meet their soggy demise in a vat of lard.   So why not just eat a plain banana?  It actually tastes the same minus the diet busting grease.   Even eating this crap in the most moderate of moderation is sure keep the diabetes gods smiling.

Holding out hope for better meals to come afterwards, we spent a few fantastic hours paddling through the mangroves just outside of town.  I love the peace and quiet and hearing the surf crash on the other side of the swamps is a great contrast to the calm of birds chirping and the sounds of our paddles.  Besides providing me endless enjoyment, these waterways are important to the locals for the fishing, and of course this just caught fish ends up in local restaurants.   More on that later for I must first digress a little off food and into the kayaking trip.

Just when you think you have seen all the craziness the world can offer up, something rears up out of the mangroves to just surprise the hell out of you.  No, it wasn't a crocodile or anything of the Animal Planet sort I had hoped to see.   This kick to sanity was a tiny museum on a random island out in the mangroves, and curiosity got the better of us.   What else is there to do out there anyhow to kill some time before lunchquest officially starts?

Ancient pottery and figurines displayed behind fencing in various thatch roof huts are the meat of the museum, and each grouping represents a specific era in Colombian history dating back to times when I hope the food was a little better.   Ancient Colombians seem to be very much in tune with their sexuality as these statues were full on nudity and hardcore porn straight from the pay per view channel at some hourly motel.   

Yes, I have seen it all.   I was hoping for egrets and herons but got an even better walk on the wild side.  The old ceramic seemed innocuous enough at first glance with the requisite clay boobs and male parts.  Haven't we seen that already in National Geographic?  What's the big deal really.  But a closer look showed a few diddling themselves like right out of some Fred Flintstone era porn mag.  

Some of these prehistoric peoples possessed an inflated view of their endowments surely not even commensurate with anything anatomically possible judging by the massive clay proportions hanging off their bodies.   I guess artistic license was alive and well back then, too.  And for anyone wondering what purpose these gigantic members served, well, that all comes to life in this museum, too.    The museum's pieces de resistance down by the water could be right out of any Sex for Dummies book with their displays of different sexual positions...on top, from behind, it's all there.   Dr. Ruth would be so proud at the creativity on display. Is she even around anymore?  And you know what...just this morning I saw a news story about a dude in Vegas who has balls the size of a watermelon due to some unknown reason. Maybe he is the modern day equivalent of this stone age imagination.

This museum is like a pleasure island of foreplay for hopefully better things to come like, say, a good meal finally.   Some open air restaurant on the water complete with thatch roof got our attention for the large number of locals in there. We ordered the fresh fish and what was delivered did not in any way match the picture in my imagination. Sure, I love a whole fish served up on a plate such as that great meal of the steamed variety in Mexico.     Go south a few countries and that fish is dropped in oil and any semblence of taste is fried right out of it. Just hours before we saw fishermen pulling giant fish out of the mangrove waters and those fish could be just so fresh, wholesome, and pure with a little tender loving care.

All that was left of our fish after its final swim into the lard bath was some crunchy skin and bones.   Any meat it may have had in its former incarnation was dried out and too tough to even pick from the carcass.   Some fried yellow disks next to the fish product were either cornmeal or plantains.  Who knows.   And how does one screw up coconut rice?   This side of rubbery grains tasted like a Morton Salt factory.   I left the plate pretty much as it had looked on arrival.  Just damn.  

Trust me, I am not all that picky an eater.   I like beef-a-roni, Kraft mac and cheese and would happily eat a peanut butter and jelly each day of the week.   Really, my expecations are not all that high.   I just want some decent local cuisine that would put a smile on anyone's face when in a new land.  I don't pretend to be a food critic or even have any credentials other than what tastes good going down.   But I do believe we all share the desire for a meal that makes us push back from the table wanting more.

Not wanting to give up just yet and head to the Golden Arches, we asked around for some dinner choices and walked into two of the recommendations. More of the same same but different piles of lifeless fried foods and tough looking meats were scattered around these joints. No thanks.   And now you understand how Exito rounded out my culinary hunt two nights in a row.

I am going to have my Anthony Bourdain experience that makes me yell wow into the camera.  Trust me on that. Actually, come to think of it, I did have that moment in more a Jeff Corwin type of way. I spent a few hours out in nature and saw a side of Colombia that is beautiful and peaceful. Maybe this is like people in that we all bring something different to the table.   Maybe Colombia isn't meant to deliver the food but all things outdoors such as a fantastic coastline near Capurgana, scenic mountains like the Andes, beautiful cities like Cartagena, and clay titties in the mangroves. OK, Colombia, you win in the end.

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