The story of the arepa (savoury Colombian pancake)

Community -

The Story Festival – sharing fun, food and culture on Hobart’s Eastern Shore.

The Story Festival is Clarence City Council’s annual week-long celebration of community, diversity and sharing. A series of cooking workshops run across the festival weaved together stories of differing food cultures and the traditional preparations, sharing and celebration of delicious dishes.

The arepa cooking workshop was a family affair – Grandmother Naty, daughter Milena, and granddaughter Sophia joined to tell the story of the arepa. The workshop began with a theatrical performance from Naty, Milena, and Sophia, before we got cooking in the kitchen to knead, and fry our arepas.

But what is an arepa?

Arepa is a type of gluten-free ‘pancake’ – or tortilla – made from corn. The Indigenous tribes that inhabited what is now Colombia and Venezuela were the creators of arepas, which to this day is an integral part of Colombian culture. 

Corn is an essential ingredient when making the flour of the arepa. Traditionally, people would peel the cob, cook the corn, grind the corn, then assemble the arepas at home.

When is a good time to eat an arepa?

Arepas can enjoyed for breakfast, or at lunchtime. They can be served alone, or with a filling of meats, butter, eggs, cheese or other vegetarian options. We enjoyed a delicious creamy mushroom filling with coriander and spring onion, as well as a slow-cooked lamb, and a tasty grilled cheese arepa!

As Milena shares, “I had the joy of seeing my grandmother and my mother get up at 5am every day to make the arepas. Of course, I imagine that they were not so happy to get up so early to make a bunch of arepas. Fortunately, nowadays this flour is already sold ready to knead, it comes not only ground, but also pre-cooked. What could be easier than that?”

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Photo credit: Takani Clark.