When Readers Attack! ‘Buñuelos a Real Treat’

Posted on 28. Jun, 2017 by in colombia, peru

Alternate Title: Search Terms “Rick Supertaster”

I have tried my hardest to leave Colombia’s bad food alone for the last three years. But that old article continues to generate comments and it just made the rounds in a Facebook group, prompting me to address the issue again. But first I have to take on RICK.

There are many awful comments on that article, but they recently reached a new low when Rick made several absurd statements which can be summed up with, “I thought [Colombia] was one of hte best if not the best for food.”

He does a lot of comparing and contrasting with Peru, and he gets a lot of his facts wrong. So I have to do my part in helping to set the record straight in the public sphere. No more fake news!

Home-cooked Colombian food courtesty of my homie Dave

There aren’t a lot of restaurants in Colombia for Colombian food because people cook that at home if they want good food. So the Colombian food that they do eat out for is just the lunch food. It’s just a way to get a quick, cheap meal during your lunch break. All of those local places offering the menu ejecutivo and so on. They aren’t meant to be offering the best of Colombian cooking.

FALSE

So not one of these Colombians cooking good food at home has the entrepreneurial spirit or business sense to sell their shit in a restaurant to all the Colombians suffering ACPM every day?

Take a minute and really think about that. All the good food is in private homes and completely unavailable for sale? And it never occurs to any of the people cooking that good food that they could make a ton of money by cornering the lunch market in the country’s most lucrative market?

It’s not just stupid on Rick’s part, it’s also insulting. It’s insulting to Colombians because it implies none of them have the business sense to reap a fortune.

But it’s also wrong to think there is really good food in people’s homes. In my two-and-a-half years as a resident in Colombia, I ate in many people’s homes, and it often sucked just as bad as in the restaurants. I’ll never forget one time when I had a bandeja paisa at the home of a well-to-do family of paisas in Bogota. I had my hopes up because they were from Medellin, and afterward I was cursing Christopher for our having ridden our bikes all the way to the far side of fucking Usaquen for the shit they served us.

I will say the arepas I ate in homes were better than in the street. But that’s not to say they were “good.”

Bottom line: true to human nature and the “magic hand” of capitalism, if there is any good food at all in a country, or any high-quality good or service for that matter, somebody will sell that product.

In fact in Lima you have a similar situation, except that in Lima there are more Chinese restaurants than the cheap Peruvian restaurants.

FALSE

Inarguably and demonstrably false. The true ratio of cheap Peruvian restaurants (“menus”) to chifas is on the order of 10 to 1, and that would be in Lima where there are a lot of chifa restaurants. In the smaller cities the ratio would be higher. Even in my district, home to the highest concentration of chifa restaurants in the country, I’d estimate there are at least five menus for every chifa. But it’s probably closer to 10.

I thought about how Rick could possibly be so misinformed about Peruvian restaurants, and I came up with two theories. One is that he stayed for a very short time (less than a month) with a Chinese family in Barrio Chino, and he never went walking around unaccompanied. Then someone could maybe believe there were more chifa restaurants than menus in Peru, and more Chinese food than Peruvian food.

The second (and more likely) theory is that Rick was partying every night and didn’t wake up before noon on any given day. He ate (what was for him) breakfast in the gringo hostel every day around lunchtime, and it was dark outside by the time he was hungry for what he would consider lunch. Very few menus stay open after 4 p.m. After that, you’re Peruvian food options are narrowed down to chifa, pollo a la brasa and anticuchos. Of those three, there are probably more chifas than the other two combined, so a nocturnal lifestyle could have led Rick to eating more chifa than Peruvian and thinking that was normal.

Peruvian food is good but also overrated. It’s popularity now has more to do with trends and fads than anything else.

ARGUABLE

Peruvian food’s popularity may in fact have more to do with “trends and fads,” but there is no way to be sure. However, Peru has won the World Travel Award for Leading Culinary Destination for five consecutive years. All while Colombia has never been nominated.

Choose the best answer:

  1. Trends and fads.
  2. Rick is a dumb ass.

Rice with Duck by 14 Inkas Bogota

And most of the Peruvian restaurants in Colombia are selling glorified (nikkei) sushi.

FALSE

I only ate at three different Peruvian restaurants in Colombia (none of which were nikkei restaurants), so I have not visited “most of the Peruvian restaurants in Colombia.” But I did consult enough online menus of Peruvian restaurants in Bogota to get a representative sample, and there was very little (in most cases none) Nikkei / Peruvian-Japanese cuisine. In fact ceviche and Creole seafood not only dominated, it was the only category in many of the restaurants.

Maybe Rick meant to say: “And most of the Peruvian restaurants in Colombia are selling ceviche.” That would be true.

As for ceviche, all you can taste is lime. It’s a completely unbalanced dish unlike similar dishes from Southeast Asia which have sweetness, and umami and herbs.

ARGUABLE

Arguable, but false. Again, maybe Rick spent a very short time and had ceviche only once or twice, and that once or twice happened at the same place, so he did not get to know all the variations in the ceviche world. Either way, in addition to lime ceviche also has sweet potato and rocoto (sweet and spicy respectively) which combine for what I often call a Holy Trinity of flavor.

There is a disturbing new trend (to me anyway) in the ceviche scene of Lima. But apparently the natural sweet potato is not enough sweetness for everybody. So some cevicherias are serving what is known as “glaceado,” in which the sweet potato is soaked in simple syrup. It’s way too sweet for me and ruins the whole all-natural character of the dish. But maybe it’d be just right for Rick … if only he had spent more time here to try it!

One of my favorite huecos, run by a guy from Piura, uses orange juice in the sweet potato to add just a touch of sweetness to the sweet potato, but not too much and keeping it mostly natural.

And then for gringos with heavy testicles (like me) you can always flip the script on the server when she asks if you want your ceviche “con picante.” They’re asking because you’re a gringo and maybe you can’t handle spicy food. And that’s when you say, “con EXTRA porfa!”

That’s a balanced dish.

And lomo saltado is just stir fried beef with french fries thrown in.

TRUE

This is the one statement from Rick which is verifiably true. Lomo saltado is, in fact, stir-fried beef with fried potatoes.

Interestingly, this is also what makes it Peruvian fusion and not Chinese. I learned this when my good friend Chuck, who lived in China for three years, came to my wedding in 2012. We had a lomo saltado at some point and I told him the plate was inspired by Peru’s Chinese immigrants. He said that you would never see anything like it in China because the Chinese would never fry potatoes. Absolutely never under any circumstances.

I spent considerable time in Peru …

ARGUABLE

While “considerable” is subjective, the sheer quantity of falsehoods in the comment indicate Rick wasn’t here long … definitely not more than a tourist visa allows.

When I completed my first year in Peru, I probably would’ve said something like “I spent considerable time in Peru,” which is laughable now. But with every additional year I complete in Latin America, I realize how many gringos came before me, and how little I know even today. I’ve met full-grown bicultural children who had grown up with gringo mothers or fathers, and I’ve met those mothers and fathers too. There are expats with one or two decades under their belts, but the true gems to latch onto and learn all you can are those with three decades.

Then you can break down expat experience by a particular country’s eras. So I consider a gringo who was in Peru before the fall of Fujimori to be in a league above those who arrived just after, even if the timing was just a couple years. More points if they saw the 1980s economic crisis, and more still for Velasco’s military dictatorship. Same for the gringos in Colombia when the FARC shook the capital, or narcoterrorism and the hunt for Pablo Escobar.

With that in mind, come back to Rick’s “I spent considerable time in Peru.”

I’d advise Rick to check out my reading list. It’s a good place to start, but unfortunately I don’t think Rick will ever be one of the cool kids. Some people are just born stupid.

doble americano arequipa food peru

… and I realized that [Peruvian] food was overrated.

ARGUABLE

This is not demonstrably false because “overrated” is subjective.

In fact, surprisingly, Rick would share this opinion with Daniel Alarcon, a Peruvian-American writer (a good one) who generated a nasty backlash by suggesting Peruvian food was overrated. That goes to show Peruvians can be just as sensitive as Colombians about their food. The only difference is that Peruvian food is the best in Latin America, while Colombian food is the worst.

Did love the picarones though and the churros criollos. But wouldn’t say they’re better than Colombian buñuelos!

ARGUABLE

Churros aren’t Peruvian, dumb ass. While you can find churros in Lima, they are as Peruvian as morcilla or arroz con leche.

For those who don’t know buñuelos, they are balls of fried dough. Like a plain donut with no glaze, no sugar, no jelly, not even a little salt. Just plain. Arguable because some people may like buñuelos better than picarones (fried dough drenched in fig syrup).

This statement gave me an idea about what might be afflicting Rick, aside from a poor education. A couple years ago I learned about supertasters, or people with hypersensitive taste buds. These people can’t stand bold flavors because, for example, eating normal Buffalo Wings would taste like raw cayenne peppers to them. If Rick were one of those people, I completely understand not only how he would like buñuelos more than picarones, but Colombian food in general over the rest of the region’s cuisines. He’s a supertaster!

I had no problem whatsoever with the food in Colombia. In fact, I thought it was one of hte best if not the best for food. They have the best mangos in the world by far, the slightly fermented antioquean sausages are incredibly delicious, the arepas de choclo are a real treat as are freshly fried buñuelos. The chocolate from Santander is the best I’ve had.

ARGUABLE to FALSE

We already know you either (A) are a supertaster or (B) have no taste, so not having a problem with Colombian food or thinking it’s “the best” is subjective, and hence arguable.

But the mangos in Colombia are the same as in the rest of the region. The little small ones called “mangos de azucar” (mangos criollos in Peru), the big ones, the un-ripened green ones only Colombians would eat, etc. But this point is demonstrably false if you accept as evidence that Colombia does not produce or export the most mangos in the region. The top producers in Latin America are Mexico, Brazil and Peru, and while Colombia is a player in the mango game, it’s barely worthy of mention. So you can reasonably conclude that Colombia does not have the best mangos in the world or even the region.

I tried to find something “Antioquean” about chorizo, fermented or otherwise, and came up with insufficient evidence that there is anything beyond marketing bullshit (which I am good at, by the way) that is different about the Spanish-style chorizo served in Colombia. Chorizo in Colombia is good, but it’s Spanish food.

Arepas de choclo are cornbread with a slice of mozzarella inside. The cheese is a nice touch but given how greasy they are in Colombia I wouldn’t go as far as “real treat.” But again, arguable.

And as for Rick’s liking buñuelos … Fine, we get it, you’re a supertaster.

I’m also at a loss for what he means by “chocolate from Santander.” I don’t know if he’s talking about the Santander brand of packaged chocolate bars, the hot chocolate beverage or the quality of the cacao crop in Santander. But no matter which one it is, any chocolate snob in the States would not rank any Colombian chocolate, and if it used Colombian cacao it would certainly have been processed into chocolate somewhere else.

Photo Credit: Don’t Give Papaya

Stuff like hot dogs yeah are pretty scary in Colombia, but nobody goes to Colombia to eat hot dogs.

ARGUABLE

But you go to Peru to eat churros?

And Colombian “ceviche” is kind of awful, but just think of it as a shrimp cocktail, which is what it really is.

FALSE

Colombian ceviche would be just like shrimp cocktail if it were a mere APPETIZER as opposed to the MAIN COURSE. Serving shrimp cocktail alone as a meal would piss most gringos off, but they wouldn’t come back to your house if you served the shrimp in horseradish-free ketchup with onions and fucking crackers. So not shrimp cocktail at all.

Photo credit: Andina

And it makes total sense that a Caribbean country would not have a raw fish tradition. Even in Peru, with its colder waters, you are running the risk of parasites by eating ceviche.

FALSE

I tried to find some connection between warm-water fish and “raw fish traditions” and came up nil. So I think it makes sense only if you equate warm waters with leaving the raw meat out at room temperature for a long time. But Rick, it’s not the same when the animal’s still alive. And we get it, you don’t like ceviche.

Given how little time Rick has spent in Peru, he doesn’t understand exactly how much raw fish Peruvians eat every day. I wouldn’t know how to estimate it, but I alone eat ceviche twice a month (more in the summer, less in the winter). If each plate has a half pound of raw fish on it, that’s 16 pounds of raw fish per year. Let’s say a quarter of Peru’s adults who live in the coastal cities do the same. That brings my guesstimate to more than 60 million pounds of raw fish consumed in Peru every year.

Risk of parasites? Rick, go do some pushups or something!

Late-night anticuchos (cow heart) with corn, fried potato and cheese

If you stay in Peru for any extended period of time, you end up eating more Chinese food than anything else.

FALSE

Let’s tweak it so it’s true: “If you stay in Peru for a very short period of time and only go out to eat at night, you could end up eating more Chinese food than anything else.”

Rick came back and left another comment on the same article, not as full of tripe but it had the following gems.

Most typical corrientazo on the web, courtesy El Tiempo

The Colombian “fast food” corrientazo include drinks and besides being cheap are overall quite healthy.

ARGUABLE

“Healthy” is subjective, but if he means “healthy” in the sense that the food contains nutrition in the form of fat, carbohydrates, protein and trace vitamins and minerals, sure. It’s “healthy.”

But nobody who has actually lived in Colombia would call the set lunches “fast food.” Fast food in Colombia would be the hamburgers, hot dogs, empanadas, arepas and pizza by the slice. The “corrientazo” set lunches in Colombia have full table service, so maybe a little more than even “fast casual” of Gringolandia if comparing apples to apples. But let’s not go there.

Photo credit: Viva La Cocina

Even the drink, instead of a sugary soda, you typically get an unsweetened fruit drink.

FALSE

Rick has already betrayed his demographics so this is an explainer on “juice” in South America.

What gringos call “juice” down here often seems natural to them because it’s made with real fruit and usually on the same day that it is ultimately drank. But that “juice” is fruit, water and sugar in a blender. So not “100% juice” as sold in the United States.

If it were sold in a bottle in the United States, the FDA would require this on the label: “CONTAINS 30% FRUIT JUICE.” Or maybe 20% or 10%, depending on how much water and sugar were added. So in that sense, “juice” in South America has much more in common with Tampico or Sunny Delight of the United States than it does with Juicy Juice or Simply Orange.

The juice drinks in Latin America are tastier and seem to have less sugar because it’s not unnaturally concentrated (or “squeezed” from its fibrous natural form), but the actual sugar content is probably comparable. Although the juice in Gringolandia would have more vitamins and minerals given they are 100% juice, as opposed to sugar and water.

American fast casual from Demandy

[With the Colombian corrientazo] you get a little salad, a piece of meat or chicken that’s typically cooked on a grill or skillet, some rice, beans, a maduro and homemade soup. Aside from the maduro, I don’t think the typical menu del dia features fried food as a a regular thing. I would pick the Colombian “fast food” over American fast food any day of the week. I think it’s healthier and tastier by far.

FALSE

Most of this can be attributed to a gringo tourist never getting out of the honeymoon phase. We’ve already gone over the error in calling Colombia’s corriente lunches “fast food,” but the paragraph earns a FALSE distinction because he called it “tastier.”

It’s one thing to say you don’t like something, but to use “tastier” implies it has more flavor, not less, and obviously this isn’t true in Colombia. Scientists now believe they can measure flavor by hooking sensors up to your teeth to gauge your tongue’s reaction to different foods. And anybody who has lived in Colombia (as a resident) knows that if the boring-ass ACPM were tested against anything served anywhere else in the world, it would objectively have less flavor, and thus not be “tastier.” Even if a supertaster like Rick prefers it that way…

Dear Rick,

I assume you’re under 25. I would hate to be judged today by the many stupid things I said was young, but back then the internet wasn’t so developed and, even if I did say them online, those permalinks are long gone.

You, however, left these absurd comments in 2017, and now I’ve responded to them in a way that will always be on the web to remind you of your current state: expat-chronicles.com/2017/06/rick-supertaster.

If you ever want this post taken down, all you have to do is leave another comment (with the same email address) on the original post disowning everything in both of your comments, and I’ll gladly make it disappear. How’s that for being a nice guy?

Otherwise, you can be stoic about it and always have this post to come back to, to stay humble and remind yourself of your own personal Dark Ages. Just remember the permalink.

Thanks for reading!

Dear reader,

Did you have a laugh? See the Tip Jar at the top of the sidebar! If I get a donation in the next 48 hours I’ll publish another piece this week.

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11 Responses to “When Readers Attack! ‘Buñuelos a Real Treat’”

  1. Dan

    28. Jun, 2017

    Nice! I always am surprised about how worked up Colombians get over people’s criticism of their food. Even when it’s objective and measured, they act as if you were taking a wee on the Libertador’s grave. I think the failure to self reflect and taste their own food from an objectionable point of view, is what has kept Colombian food decidedly mediocre. Also, Colombia lacks the big immigrant communities that you can find in places like Brazil, The US, Peru, Canada, etc. Therefore, many Colombians don’t even know about any kind of food besides the traditional stuff they eat everyday (over, and over again). Good quality non-Colombian food (especially Asian) can be hard to find, and it is always expensive.

    Well, the Hornet’s nest has been kicked (again). So it’s time to sit back and watch the sparks fly (i.e. comments from overly defensive Colombians).

  2. Big Ben

    28. Jun, 2017

    Any backpacker who says arepas and bunuelos are a treat needs his hipster ass kicked on site, guaro and ron are the only good shit this place makes.

  3. Rick

    29. Jun, 2017

    Well, thank you for elevating my comments to a post. Haha. I enjoyed reading it.

    The churros criollos I know are rather rare in Peru, but that type of churro I have not seen in other countries in Latin America. Perhaps they come from Spain, but I did get them in more than one city (Lima and Arequipa). I’m not talking about the typical ridged churro stuffed with dulce de leche, which you can find in Mexico, Peru and many other places.

    The mango de azucar in Colombia is in fact unique. They are not the same as other varieties. They share the same general outward appearance as the Mexican ataulfo, but anybody who says the flavor is the same is NUTS. They are way, way beyond anything else in the world. That fruit is reason alone to visit Colombia!

    Don’t confuse the ability or willingness to export with the quality of the merchandise. Colombian cannot export avocadoes either to the United States, but it’s not because there’s no market for it. In that case, it has to do with FDA clearance. In the case of mangos de azucar, it probably has to do with marketing and branding, because it’s a premium product even in Colombia. At Carulla I remember this selling for more than twice the price of the other varieties. To sell it for a profit in the US or elsewhere would require much higher prices than Mexican ataulfos, which LOOK practically the same.

    As for Colombian shrimp cocktail or “ceviche,” is that a main course? I’ve personally never seen it sold anywhere but from shops or stands dedicated to selling it as a snack. I hate it too. I’m not saying it’s good. The idea of ketchup and mayo is pretty revolting, but I don’t think it’s anything more than street food.

    I advise you to lay off the Peruvian ceviche and sushi because you will get parasites sooner or later. There will be worms crawling in your brain and it’s not pleasant!

    Thinking about the Chifa restaurant ratio, you are probably right, but most of those Peruvian restaurants are so basic that you would have to be very brave to patronize them. I was thinking more of restaurants that are similar in scale to a typical Chifa.

    Oh god, I love Colombian buñuelos! I have to get back to Colombia ASAP. Nothing like a buñuelo and hot chocolate on a rainy morning.

  4. Rick

    29. Jun, 2017

    FYI, Santander is both a region and a brand of chocolate. It’s delicious, the best chocolate in the world. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you have to try it next time you are in Colombia.

  5. Rick

    30. Jun, 2017

    I forgot to mention that Colombia also has the best non-alcoholic beverage in the world: Limonada de Coco.

  6. Colin

    30. Jun, 2017

    I gotta give Rick props for being a good sport!

    The vast majority of readers I’ve laid into respond with frightening vitriol from the safety of anonymity. Rick shows surprising maturity here, he may be allowed over for beer and a coaching session next times he’s in Lima!

  7. Chuck

    02. Jul, 2017

    A random thought. Offhand, Peru and Mexico have best food in Latin America. Perhaps not coincidentally the two countries were home to the two capitals of the old Spanish empire, key destinations along global trade routes with greater access to ingredients from abroad.

    Lima probably benefited more from this since it was along the Pacific coast. At the time, many of the world’s spices originated in Southeast Asia. Peru also received more immigrants from places like China who obviously left their mark.

    Additionally, Peru and Mexico feature a range of climates that accommodate a wider range of vegetation. And both may have inherited culinary traditions from the empires that preceded them, the Aztecs and Incas.

    Colombia, not so much.

    Maybe I’m right. Colin, get to work on this, you should know.

  8. christian

    02. Jul, 2017

    Been to Mexico a few times, Central and South America as well. The food in Mexico is awesome, as well as Peru. You’ll find Colombia has things unique to itself that are it’s own delicacies, as Rick says, but Peruvian food is definately one of the best cuisines in South America. Ecuador has some amazing coastal seafood/Ceviche too, and of course Argentina is known for it’s meats, as Brasil is known for it’s own unique cuisine, etc…

    I’m sure Colombian food can be made tastier with the simple addition of a salsa, and doubt it is hard to simply ‘preguntar’.

  9. Edward

    02. Jul, 2017

    Peruvian food uses WAY too much MSG. Peruvians have no idea how to cook without MSG. I blame the Chinese. Peruvian food doesn’t taste bad, but it’s unhealthy, especially for those with heart/stomach problems. Even plates without MSG, like ceviche (Peruvian style), are so acidic people with heart/stomach issues wouldn’t be able to handle it.

  10. Dan

    03. Jul, 2017

    +1 for Ecuadorian coastal cuisine. It often gets lost in the hype over its neighbor’s (Peru) cuisine. However, I have always eaten well in Ecuador for very little. Even in the mountains, you can find plenty of coastal restaurants serving costeno food, and the black conch ceviche is excellent.

    Yes, Colombian food can be made tastier with the addition of Aji or picante, but think again if you believe that it is all of a sudden going to make a mediocre plate awesome. Putting picante on Colombian food is akin to putting lipstick on a pig.

  11. Colin

    03. Jul, 2017

    Ceviche de conchas negras is Peruvian, from the northern department of Tumbes, which borders Ecuador. According to this: http://comidaperuana.about.com/od/Cebiche/r/Ceviche-De-Conchas-Negras.htm

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