Many of us feel connected to our roots through the extraordinary power of food. The arepa is one of those beloved dishes. This delicacy holds a special place in the hearts and kitchens of Colombian and Venezuelan households.
Ask any Venezuelan or Colombian, and they will surely attribute the creation of this delicacy to their motherland. These two South American countries have been at the center of this culinary controversy for decades. However, they often not recognize its intricate history.
Arepas originated from the indigenous tribes that inhabited the area now considered both Venezuela and Colombia, meaning they each contributed to the recipe.
The word ‘arepa’ is derived from the Cumanagoto term ‘erepa,’ meaning corn. Although the Cumanagoto people were from what is now considered present-day Venezuela, it is important to remember that there were no territorial distinctions during those times.
The diet of these indigenous communities consisted of basic staples such as yuca, fish, and vegetables like corn. As a result, they would come up with creative ways to cultivate and incorporate these foods into different dishes that were not only nutritious but also easy to transport.
Arepas are round and crispy patties made from corn. While they are now typically made using precooked cornmeal or corn flour, traditionally, they were made with ground corn. Indigenous women would chew on corn and place it on a plate to form a paste. This paste was used to create a round patty and then cooked in ceramic.
As time passed, other ways of making arepas, such as crushing corn between two stones or using a pestle to make the dough, came to be.
The evolution of the arepa
When Colombia and Venezuela officially separated into two countries in 1830, each modified the “original” recipe and created the versions we all know and love today.
Colombia’s arepas are typically thinner and served plain with salt, butter, or shredded cheese. They can be served alongside huevos pericos and a slice of quesito.
On the other hand, Venezuelans stuff their arepas with a wide variety of ingredients. These include as chicken and avocado, shredded beef, black beans, or eggs.
The age-old debate about the origin of the arepa shows the rich cultural heritage of Colombia and Venezuela. Furthermore, it shows how we should embrace the contributions of the indigenous tribes that lived together as one.