Food tour of the city of green and light
Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
60Trip End Sep 29, 2012
I have been fortunate enough to visit Caracas, Venezuela. Yes that's right, I am in place considered not so safe but I was received by my Venezuelan friend Naylin who I met some ten years ago in Turkey when we were both doing internships out there. I contacted her when I knew I was going to leave my job and said how about I come to your country to visit with that she replied that if I got here by February I could be attending her wedding.
Not only did I do that but I had the complete honour of being a witness in the civil ceremony, the first time I have ever done that at a wedding.
I was thought a bit nervous about coming, really from the safety point of view. I had, thanks to the British government Foreign Office advice, got my latest installment the day before my flight about 'express kidnapping' and issues on the VZ and Columbia border. I studied the whole article in full on the net, after reading it I thought sometimes it's better not to know some things!
I had a wonderful welcome by Naylin at the airport and we drove through Caracas past some 'barrios' (very poor areas) and straight into her big wedding preparations for a dress fitting at the designer, that same evening we got to her church for the practice and then I had the pleasure of trying my first 'arepa', food is going to get mentioned a lot! It is basically made of corn dough, toasted or warmed up, then you cut it in half and fill with cheese of fillings you like, I also got to have another one which was chicken, avocado and mayonnaise but for breakfast called Reyna Pepiada and we ate at the same sitting huge pancake with melted butter and more white cheese inside called Cachapas. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arepa).
Caracas is a very green city my friend told me, I agreed , trees line the large wide boulevard avenues around the nice parts of the city. People are sitting and talking in large plazas that are common in the city landscapre, I also saw people working out in the evening when dark in the outdoor gyms. I really noticed how green it was when I got a bit of the sniffles, must be the higer pollen level I'm not used to. I also saw a few plazas lit up at night with water features and music. I had a lot of experience of the traffic jams in the city but that's like any other big city really. When we were stopping in the traffic because people can be sitting in their cars for much longer than they planned for, street vendors are selling anything you can imagine from crisps, snacks , lottery tickets, rose for the wife ( I guess sorry I'm late) and even I saw tennis rackets and toys for the kids!
I have been made so welcome here and got to see a traditional Venezuelan wedding, there were two stages first the civil ceremony registering the marriage and then the church part. Weddings here are at night and in winter, brides are not a fan of getting hot and sticky in their dresses, like us Brits. Starting at 6pm it meant that everyone had the whole day to get ready and everyone goes all out for it. Salon appointments for the ladies nails being done and the big hair do's plus the men go collect their rented tuxedo's or suits. I was transformed into a latino women with two hours, alot of hair pins and enough hair lacquer that if anyone lit a cigarette near me I'd go up in smoke.
It's traditional for pre-wedding photos at the family of the bride's home and this is where the big evening all started. The service was lovely, no actually hymn singing like we are used to but lots of music and a choir. My favourite part of the wedding celebrations was when the bridge and groom left the church to head to where the party was being held in Sante Fe district of Caracas. All the cars waited till their car left, and then honked their horns and kept the hazard lights on until we were there. All I could see from behind what the after effect. People stopping on the side of the street looking and once when the bridal car stopped at the traffic lights, the photographer and vidoecamera man jumped out of their car and filmed right in the middle of the Caracas busy roads - one word, brilliant!
From arriving at the party I was overwhelmed by so much going on, I did not know where to look , what to do or what to eat or drink as there was so much on offer. A whole room was dedicated to traditional sweet cakes and deserts and the wedding cake. Photographs featured all through the evening and live music and lots and lots of dancing. There was around 300 people at this wedding , poeple sitting under a covered terrace eating, drinking champagne, wine, and traditional to serve whiskey with soda on the tables. I absolutely adored the seafood from a cocktail glass , classy! After a lot of cheese and houe-doorves, the main meal was served I had no room left for it, then at a little after midnight soup was served everyone was eating it so I thought why not, could help with lessening the effects of the hangover.
Towards the end of the wedding were a few fireworks and traditional music and dancing from Venezuela. Everyone donned silly party hats, like one's you wear on New Year's eve and suddenly everyone jumped to their feet and started crazy dancing it was wonderful and so much fun. The next morning my feet were a little tired after my night of dancing but what wonderful memories and something I really will never forget.
I also saw an older part of Caracas called El Hatillo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Hatillo_Municipality,_Miranda) and did a eating food tour of the local establishments to try some traditional foods from Venezuela.
First was lunch, two white cheese filled empanadas that was perfect for that after a big night feeling. Then onto a local souvenir store of all things traditional from Venezuela which was interesting to see local pottery and some of the Indian origins of the culture and people.
http://southamericanfood.about.com/od/breads/r/Gofeados-Venezuelan-Sweet-Rolls-Recipe-For-Golfeados.htm), looks a bit like a cinnamon bun but is made from not cinammon but sugar cane molasses, delicious I asked for the recommended one, guess what it was with white cheese oh why not. Whilst we were eating we were discussing these foods were good cures for hangovers I discovered a pretty cool phrase in spanish, I asked how did you say the same in Spanish. They say here 'Yo tengo raton' , translated I have a mouse! This has to be linked to the cheese theme surely?! The last food stop was for what I would describe as rice pudding on ice drunk from the cup, it was really yummy and very refreshing, this is called 'tequenos'. Needless to say after all this I had no room left for anymore food... well until tomorrow of course ;)