By Yajaira Morán
Translated by Genevieve Ayukawa
No one in Venezuela would think it surprising to eat cachitos for breakfast from the Portuguese bakery, eat Italian food for lunch, and eat Chinese or Japanese food for dinner.
The native diet was based on corn and yucca complemented with some sort of protein from livestock (home-bred or hunted), a natural sweetener like honey, and natural condiments such as pepper. On the other hand, the European diet was based on meat, flour, wine, and vegetable and animal fats using cane sugar, salt, and spices from the Old World.
The Spanish also brought the routine of drinking hot chocolate. The cocoa that grew wild was not consumed by our natives and the Spanish took charge of bringing it to the Antilles and South America.
The hallaca is the typical example of a mixture of native and European traditions. A stew is prepared with raisins, almonds, olives, capers, prunes, and spices is wrapped in corn flour and in plantain leaves. The arepas and cassava bread has remained intact throughout history and began to be complemented with cheeses – techniques brought from el Conquistador.
In the 1950s, the different waves of foreigners, from Europeans to South Americans, arrived ready to offer the recipes of their countries in popular restaurants. In this way, the basic menu of Venezuelans grew to include pastas, paellas, lumpias, and shawarmas. The local culinary map was altered forever thanks to this worldly advancement.
From the Italian immigration, Rafael Artay calculates that “more than 95% of the Venezuelan population consumes pastas on average twice a week” in El pan nuestro de cada dia. The renowned Miro Popic states that Venezuela is the second country on the planet that consumes the most pasta. The Italians made Neapolitan annd Bolognese sauces as common as pabellón (black beans, rice, flank steak, and fried plantains) and arepas. Don Armando Scannone cites that the Italians contributed in making the arepa more popular; working in construction, the Italians saw their Venezuelan coworkers bring their stuffed arepas for lunch and started requesting them. Another important contribution was the polenta and the breaded steak.
The Spanish taught how to prepare the paella and how to appreciate the potato omelette and tapas (more commonly known as pasapalos in Venezuela).
Pan salado (similar to Portuguese buns) has become one of the main urban foods because of its excellence.
North American Influence
North Americans arriving to Venezuela to work in the oil industry brought Corn Flakes, the Toddy, the Ovomaltina, Quaker Oats, and popularized drinks such as whisky.
We can confirm that the arepa is the main traditional meal of Venezuela and will be for many centuries to come. In these times of globalization and Venezuelan emigration, the arepa is the one food always present in Venezuelan gatherings and it is also the first meal we want foreigners to try. It is a real phenomenon of transculturation and has been the motivation to open Venezuelan restaurants in Australia, Spain, and in Germany and has been widely presented in an various TV programs.