Colombian Culture: Food Waste Hacks

Are you tired of throwing away food? Or is guilt eating you alive whenever you dump something out, especially knowing that you could’ve used it? If so, you aren’t alone. Many people like you also want to start being mindful about food waste, and we are here to help.

Though there are plenty of suggestions around the interwebs explaining how to cease the dumping of food, this one has the Colombian touch. 

We are going to take our multicultural experiences and tailor hacks that are not only effective but also practical. So, don’t worry, we won’t suggest how to turn orange peels into candles, because who has the time for that anyway?

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Never, ever throw away your rice and beans. Allow us to explain. 

Oh, calentado the food of the gods and goddesses. Calentado is a traditional Colombian dish whose sole purpose is to avoid food waste. This dish requires beans and rice from the night before and about two eggs, depending on the number of diners.

Toss these ingredients in a large saucepan, add a pinch of salt, serve with an arepa, a slice of avocado, cheese, and coffee. You might need a nap after enjoying a calentado, but it’s worth it. 

Tip: You can replace rice with any grain such as quinoa or couscous to make calentado. A calentado americanizado, if you may. 

For our non-Colombian friends, Colombian households tend to serve rice and beans at some point during the day, every single day, and it’s always heavenly. However, if you are not used to having rice and beans at home, you can plan for a calentado whenever they are included in your menu.

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Don’t cry over spilled milk. Or, spoiled milk, for that matter. 

Believe it or not, many Colombians drool over the thought of curdled milk because they know something delicious will come out of it — for example, Dulce de Leche Cortada or Colombian-Style Curdled Sweet Milk. 

If we were to be sure that heaven tastes like a spoiled milk dessert, then sin would cease to exist on Earth. Maybe that’s a bit much, but this dessert is a combination of all your dreams and desires, spoon after spoon. 

In all seriousness, this is the perfect solution to cover up anyone’s inability to stay on track with their milk’s expiration date. 

The best part of it is how simple it is to make. 

You’ll only need your spoiled milk, fresh lime juice, cinnamon sticks, and panela (hardened brown sugar) for this delectable creation. Learn more about it here! 

So, keep that milk longer in your fridge. In fact, let it clump up it’ll come in handy. You’ll see.

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For this food waste hack, you’ll need pineapple skins, corn, panela, water, and a shovel. Yes, you read that right a shovel. But, first, let’s take a look at the complex cultural significance of chicha.

Chicha was a ceremonial drink used by the Indigenous people of Colombia. The birth of chicha occurred in Bacatá, present-day Santa Fé de Bogotá. It even lured the colonizers in, allowing the Spanish to refresh themselves in this magical brew. 

Who knows? Maybe even Buendia sipped from the spellbinding drink as he strolled away from Macondo in search of the sea. It seems as though Midas also stumbled upon the creation of this drink as it is golden-colored, therefore, priceless to whoever inquires about it. 

Chicha has always been anything you wanted it to be it could be alcoholic or non-alcoholic. It was the original Colombian drink and can easily become the drink of the world.

The great thing about this beverage is not only its rich flavor but history. 

In 1948, the Colombian government prohibited the distribution of any chicha that was not pasteurized and bottled. The government blamed the death of Gaitán on chicha. Apparently, the mixture of fermented fruits and grains were at the root of the violence of April 9th, 1948, which led to the ban on unauthorized chicha production. This was an intense cultural hit to the Indigenous people of Colombia. Those in the Muisca tribe were significantly affected since they had claimed chicha as one of their traditional beverages. 

The tools for the pasteurization process and bottled containers were hard to come by for Indigenous people as they typically produced chicha. Thus, fast-tracking them into an economic disaster thanks to the mindless rule. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1991.

Nowadays, chicha isn’t as popular as it used to be, but it remains a historical staple for Colombian people. 

You can enjoy this artisanal beverage anytime you buy a pineapple and don’t know what to do with its skin. 

Boil the pineapple skin in a large pot with water, panela, and corn. Don’t forget to stir often! 

Once you’re done with that step, pour it into a clay pot, although a glass container will work, too. Finally, bring out your shovel; you’ll need to bury it underground to ferment your concoction if you want the alcoholic version (skip this step if you want it non-alcoholic.) 

Most people leave their chicha to gestate for two weeks, but that’s not set in stone. My grandmother used to leave it underground for months at a time, and it was still delicious (and-oh-so potent) whenever she dug it up. 

Nonetheless, here’s another chicha recipe just in case you want to compare and contrast.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can utilize your food at home. Now, tell us, do you own a shovel, or will you purchase one now? 

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