A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Food Options in Bogota – The North Star Reports – by Laura Blasena. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
[Photo: An average breakfast: fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee, eggs, and a croissant with cheese. Approximately 10 mil (around $3.50) total.]
When you read travel blogs and information guides about Bogotá, one of the sections that always seemed to be extremely lacking was the “food” section. After living in Bogotá for a month, I completely understand why. You can certainly get a lot for your money, but it isn’t always the most flavorful.
While all countries tend to have their special dishes that are savored all over the world, the idea of “Colombian food” isn’t always particularly savory. The most “Colombian” meals that I have eaten have usually been lunches served in small cafeterias that you can find on every street. Meals in a cafeteria usually cost around 6 mil (equal to about 2 dollars). A typical breakfast consists of rice, potato, patacon (a smashed, fried plantain) some meat, and fruit juice. Overall, breakfast is a lot of unseasoned starch.
Dinners tend to be very similar as well, with maybe a bit more meat added to the mix and a bit of a rise in price.
Then, of course, there is the loyal arrepa. An arrepa is a sort of flatbread made of fried maize dough or corn flour. You can find it literally everywhere in Bogotá. Every cafeteria sells arrepas (often with cheese), and throughout the day you can find street vendors selling arrepas of every sort. For breakfast I usually buy them with cheese, and later in the day you can usually buy one stuffed with veggies and different types of meat.
There is no end to the different types of arepas that I have found, and as I’ve had the opportunity to travel I’ve come to realize that arepas vary across region as well. When I visited Boyaca (a department north of Bogotá), I was surprised to find that the arepas we bought from a stand on the side of the road had hard, crunchy outsides and were filled with sweet cheese on the inside.
[Photo: Then there are also tricky hamburgers such as this one. It is not, in fact, a hamburger, but a very thin chicken patty with a piece of ham on it that is sold as a “hamburger”. It also features a very common pink sauce that is a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise. But this cafeteria felt that pink sauce was not enough, and added extra ketchup and mayonnaise separately. Eight mil (roughly 3 dollars) for the meal.]
While arepas are delicious and I eat them at least once a day, I’ve found myself taking advantage of the fact that Bogotá is a city with a lot of international influences. In the area around my school, there are several Peruvian restaurants and cafes. My apartment building is located by the Universidad Javeriana, a fairly large university in Bogotá, and the surrounding restaurants cater to the presence of college students. Pizza, burgers, wings, and fries can be found everywhere, and more international food like Japanese, Israeli, and Chinese food can be in the general area for a fairly decent price.
[Photo: My favorite Peruvian lunch. Seasoned beef, potato, rice, and a salad of onion, corn, and carrot. I’ve eaten more Peruvian lunches in Bogotá than Colombian lunches. Lunches at this restaurant cost 8.5 mil, which is equal to a little less than three dollars.]
About our special correspondent Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.
I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.
While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.
I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.
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