Friday, May 29, 2009

The making of guava paste in Santander, Colombia (1980)

In Christmas 1980, I went with a group of friends to a farming area in the province of Santander in Colombia. The purpose was to spend time assisting a local priest (an American) in his mission work by visiting the campesinos in the countryside and celebrating Christmas in their parish church. The climate there was warm but not exceedingly hot: what is called "tierra templada" (temperate land). The other types of climates in the tropics, depending on the altitude, are "tierra caliente" (hot land), "tierra fría" (cold land), and "tierra helada" (frozen land).

Some of the campesinos made guava paste, which was formed into blocks, wrapped in banana or plantain leaves, and shipped to the rest of Colombia. This paste was what is known as the "bocadillo veleño." Bocadillo refers to the sugary guava paste and veleño means that it comes from the town of Vélez, which we could see from the top of the hill. One of our stops was one of these places where the guavas were crushed and mixed with sugar. I'm trying out the paste, which at that point was still hot and not yet formed. When I got back to Bogotá and told a friend there about my trip, he said that it was not a good idea to eat it hot because it caused diarrhea, but I don't remember suffering any ill effects from it.

Another highlight from the trip was tasting the foam that came out of the cow when the campesinos began the process of milking it. It was sweet, almost like a milk shake.

See my travel website for more information on Colombia.

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