Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Trip Back to My Youth

After our market trip yesterday, we walked into what the Dutch call a 'toko'- basically, it's a food store that sells all kinds of foreign products, mostly Asian. I love visiting these shops because they usually carry a wonderful variety of spices, grains and beans. Actually, it's the perfect place for vegetarians, vegans or people who consume little meat (like myself). You'll find so much more than the few varieties of canned beans they sell at your average Dutch supermarket! I even found Nigella seeds once!

But yesterday...
There, in a little corner, we had a tiny bit of Colombia, my birth country. Unfortunately, I don't remember much about life there (I was a baby when my parents moved to New Jersey). What I do remember was being surrounded by a good dose of Colombian cooking and culture when I was growing up in the States. That's why I was so excited when my eyes fell upon a little box of Triguisar!! Triguisar is a cooking spice I vividly remember my mom using. It wasn't readily available in the States, but I remember she would sometimes get it when she would travel to Colombia or relatives would bring her some when they returned from a visit. The spices basically consists of cumin, a little garlic and some salt. They're usually used to season meats, soups and stews. I remember that distinct smell coming from empanadas (small meat pies). When I opened that little package, I was transported to a house in New Jersey where Sundays usually meant a dinner of sudao (stew with meat, potatoes and other vegetables) served over rice. Of course, the sudao was seasoned with Truiguisar!

Then I spotted a very familiar looking block of panela (a product obtained from boiled sugarcane). My parents tell me that I cried the whole way on the plane ride from Colombia to New Jersey beacuse I needed my aguapanela con leche!! Honestly, I must've been two the last time I drank this, so imagine my delight when I was standing over the stove yesterday boiling a chunk of panela in a little water! Probably just like my mom and granny did more than 30 years ago!

I also spotted some crackers with a familiar Noel logo. I never had them before, but I do remember that little 'Santa Clause' (not sure if it's Santa though!) on many food packages brought over from Colombia. They were pretty good! And for good measure I threw in some Kool Aid (not Colombian, of course!) but very familiar- our fridge was never without a pitcher of that brightly- colored drink.

All in all, it felt like I had taken a trip back to my youth today. Amazing how that was possible simply through taste and smell!


Beatriz Macias said...

Lucky you, there is nothing like a toko here in Italy. I even have trouble trying to find long rice, like Colombian rice... every single rice here sticks (good for risotto and arroz con leche). I find masarepa and panela at the local international market, but that is about it.
I have been craving some melcocha (did you ever have it?) and it is on my list of things to do this year... I have the panela, I guess I will try soon enough...
I use triguisar often, when I am cooking Colombian, mine comes directly from the source, on my bag, or my mom's. Have you used it yet?

Germancho said...

The Netherlands is the best place in Europe for finding nice colombian food. Even here in Groningen, the surinaamse toko has all kinds of cool stuff, and the arepa flour is only 1.80 a kilo!