The set menu yesterday was a soup made of carrot, tomato and beetroot with some puffed quinoa floating on top in place of croutons. The main course was cannelloni stuffed with a mixture of basil, tomatoes and soya protein served with a salad of yellow courgette, mushrooms, watercress and carrot with some soft cheese made from soy milk sprinkled over the cannelloni.
The food was served with oats liquidised in soy milk, a drink which here in Colombia is called avena, though it is usually made with cow’s milk rather than soy milk. They also have some freshly made juices available. After the main course we were given a delicious herbal tea. The food tasted delicious, was beautifully presented and the service was excellent. For non vegetarians they offer the option to have either chicken or fish to replace the soya protein.
Quinoa, along with maize, was one of the two principal foods for the Inca Empire from around 1200 AD. Quinoa can survive in a wide variety of growing conditions and this combined with its unusual nutrient richness, and its adaptability helped it gain popularity among the Incas for many hundreds of years.
You can read all about Quinoa including its health benefits here.
I really hope the restaurant, which is called Prana, does well, but I know that it is not that easy for a vegetarian restaurant to survive in Medellin as those of us who are vegetarian are few in numbers, but we are growing and the opening of this restaurant is evidence of that change in consciousness which is slowly taking place.
If you are in Medellin or Envigado, please make the effort to eat at Prana – Tranversal 31sur near the entrance to the school, Colombo Britanico. The telephone number is 331 27 59.
Another area that in the past was so limited was the cheese section, with just the standard Colombian cheeses, that too has grown and now it is easy to find many different cheeses such as cheddar, brie, camembert, gorgonzola, parmesan, pecorino, emmental, gouda, goat’s cheese and many more. It is also easy to find tofu, often called in Spanish, queso de soya, or soya cheese, however non vegetarians don’t know how to use it and maybe try it once, but eat it as if it were a cheese made from cow’s milk, and so as it has little flavour they never buy it again.
The number of vegetables available has also improved, and now it is easy to find vegetables such as aubergine, courgette and occasionally turnips which in the past were not sold here at all. Two that I would love to find in the supermarkets but never have, are swede and parsnip. I adore the taste of both.
When I first used to travel home to Britain I would come back with a suitcase full of food that I couldn’t find here, especially ingredients for Indian and Chinese cooking, and typical British products such as Marmite, gingernut biscuits and Brown sauce. Lentils were another that helped fill that suitcase to its limit, as here the only wildly available lentil is the green one.
These days I buy very little in the way of food when I return to Britain for a holiday for one of three reasons, I have discovered recipes to make what I can’t find, such as brown sauce and tahini, they now sell what I used to bring from Britain here, or I have learned to live without it. If one day I have my own finca, holiday home, with a good sized garden I would definitely dedicate some space to growing, parsnips, swedes, new potatoes and some different varieties of hot chilli peppers.
I think cable television, which became wildly accessible some years after my arrival, has contributed to the increase in the availability of different products due to all the programmes they show about food and wine. People watch these programmes and then go to the supermarkets in search of the ingredients they need. At first they don’t find them, but they ask, and so the buyers at the supermarket try to source the new product and gradually it starts to appear on the shelves. If the product sells well you continue to find it, if not it trends to disappear after a few months.
Over time one learns to adapt to what is available and eat those foods which are not available on trips back home. I think the ability to adapt is so important when settling in another country. Wherever you go to live there will be differences with your own country and some of those differences will be pleasing for you and other ones won’t. Nowhere is a paradise and we all have different likes and dislikes, but if you can learn to adapt to change in general then life becomes easier. There are things I like about Colombia and things I don’t, but nowhere is perfect and I have learnt to adapt in my own way.
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