I was born and raised in Venezuela. I spent 16 years of my life in that country and I still carry it in my heart. Even so, there are many ways in which I do not share the Venezuelan customs, there are many ways in which I do not share their values or traditions. There are many ways in which I do not embody what a typical Venezuelan is - I have spent many years abroad where I've distanced myself and let other cultures influence me. I no longer understand all of the slang, and when I am sitting in a table full of Venezuelans I somehow feel out of place (except for my family). That is of course until we all sit down to eat arepas.
For those of you who do not know, an arepa is basically the best piece of food you could ver have (ok well I could let Italians argue that with a slice of pizza -which I will eat). Maybe I am biased because I am Venezuelan, but it is highly unlikely. Arepas are an integral part of Venezuela's national dish: the "Pabellon Criollo," but it most cases it stands beautifully alone; and so it has become a part of our identity.
From the moment I took my first bite as a toddler, I was joining a group. I didn't know it yet. I was becoming a part of something that bonds us Venezuelans all over the world together - food. Regardless of political issues we may have (and we most definitely do); when we go to an arepa restaurant anywhere in the country or the world, all we need to worry about is what filling we want for our arepa (I usually go for "queso telita," a Venezuelan kind of white cheese).
You see, this piece of amazing-ness joins friends and families - even strangers together in a restaurant or around a table; and all we can talk about is how soft our arepa is on the inside and how crunchy it is on the outside. Nothing else seems to matter for those short few minutes - and perhaps longer if we decide to order another one.
Elizabeth Otaola - A Venezuelan-born and a food addict, her interest in cuisine and nourishment goes hand in hand with her passion for cultures and traveling. Her biggest dream is exploring the world one restaurant at a time while learning about food and the effects it has on our lives. Elizabeth's personal blog is found at www.mynyclimbo.com