In Colombia, Eating My Way to Peru

Warm welcome from the Cálico Cat Café in a district within the large city of Bogota, Colombia called Chapinero. Chapinero is an urban neighborhood flooded with academic youth and artist. In fact, one of the more influential artists in my life, sculptor Doris Salcedo resides in this charming town.

As I sit and enjoy a delicious Mochameowlatte and the chilly weather here in Bogota (very different from the heat I’ve been experiencing living abroad in Costa Rica), I am reflecting and sharing with you all of the delicious tastes I’ve had these few days. I have started and ended this trip to Colombia at the Cálico Cat Café, a café and restaurant that houses cats in need upstairs. They allow the public to enjoy the company of these kitties as well as adopt them if it’s in your interest. I love a good coffee shop but one that offers something beyond a polite buzz is even better.

The great taste at my first stop in Colombia set the bar high for my taste buds — and not once on this trip was I disappointed.

“It’s so important to me to take every opportunity while traveling abroad to learn and experience the customs of another culture. Tasting the typical food of a country is such a fun starting point to getting in the habit of trying new things.”

Between every corner is someone selling empanadas y arepas con queso, which I enjoyed plenty, but what I get really excited about are the foods served in the cafeterías. In Costa Rica these restaurants are called “sodas.” This is the place where you will find the most flavorful, generously portioned food while having an afternoon similar to the locals.

Viva Colombia!

Around lunchtime in the city I found myself in one very crowded cafeteria called A Res…Puesta I was recommended ordering the bandeja paisa and mondongo. Bandeja paisa is a typical breakfast dish served in Colombia. It consists of white rice, red beans, ground beef, sausage, fried egg, plantains, avocado, fruit, juice and a little gelatin desert.

Crazy amounts of variety I know… Here in Colombia you will do just fine if breakfast is your most important meal of the day.

The other dish I tried was a soup that the man serving me seemed very excited for me to try. It’s called mondongo Colombiano, AKA pork, tripe, chorizo soup. It’s also served with a mountain of white rice avocado and plantains (here in the form of patacones which are like fried banana cakes/chips). I, myself, will eat anything and I love to just ask the server to recommend me what they love. This soup reminded me of something I would enjoy most when feeling under the weather.

If you ever make a visit to Bogota, Colombia, you will learn quickly that many of the typical restaurants serve meals that include a lot of food, with drink and desert.

It’s so important to me to take every opportunity while traveling abroad to learn and experience the customs of another culture. Tasting the typical food of a country is such a fun starting point to getting in the habit of trying new things — especially when abroad in an environment extremely different than what your used to.

While in Cartagena, Colombia, I realized that you also do not have to limit yourself to cultural experiences specific to the one you’re currently in. I like to think of it as a plot twist…

This is my newest and most dear friend Jose Carlos.

Jose is from Chiclayo, Peru and he’s currently traveling and documenting different countries in South America. He, too, had never seen Colombia before and together we are so fortunate to share this experience, as we became travel companions. Although similar, our overall experience is still so different because our “norms” are very different from one another. We have never visited each other’s home country before.

I went from visiting Colombia to visiting Colombia and learning about Peruvian culture. On this trip I found myself sitting with someone from Peru in a Peruvian restaurant trying both Colombian and Peruvian cuisine. Of course the Peruvian food wasn’t as authentic as you’d find actually being in Peru, however, I did try Pisco, a popular alcohol that Peru takes a lot of pride in making.

So why not go to the Peruvian restaurant in Colombia for one dinner and take in as many different cultures as you can? For me, that’s what studying abroad — or just traveling abroad in general — is all about. Give yourself the opportunity to experience as many cultures as possible, no matter where you are, and unite them all together in some way.

It might even help you gain a better understanding of your own culture and where you come from.


Also I’m excited and proud of myself because for a few days I only spoke in Spanish! Baby steps!

Katie Johnson is a student of fine arts at SDSU. She is studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica during spring semester 2018.

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