by Rachel Cabeza
In my family, Arepas are synonymous with joy. On weekends my mother worked long hours, while my Tia and grandma would prepare arepas along with caldo, eggs, and Venezuelan chorizos.
It was the best of times.
Though my grandma has passed, my family keeps the tradition alive. Whether I’m visiting for Christmas or a weekend barbeque – arepas are involved. Since the pandemic hit, we haven’t had many opportunities to see each other. On Mother’s Day, my aunt sent everyone in the family a care package with arepas. My aunts’ arepas were timely, triggering nostalgia for my childhood; when I could spend time with my family while my mom was sacrificing for us.
It made me feel like I had my mom, my tia, and my abuela with me.
And doesn’t the best of food always do that for all of us?
The Recipe: Arepas Colombianas
¼ stick of melted butter
3 cups of PAN corn meal
3 cups of water to correct son
Salt to taste
Handful of shredded cheese (whatever you have around, I prefer muenster or mozzarella)
Your choice of oil for frying
In a large mixing bowl, combine the corn meal and melted butter and slowly add water until the corn meal has absorbed the water, creating a malleable dough.
Add shredded cheese as the dough forms beyond meal, and add salt as you mix to taste. You should have a dough that isn’t too hard or too soft by the end, if not add more water or PAN to even out consistency. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
Heat a frying pan on the stove to medium-high heat, adding one tablespoon of oil. While the frying pan heats, grab a handful of the dough and roll it into a ball. Once done this, slowly begin to flatten into ½ inch discs. There should be no cracks on the edges, to correct the edges, dampen your fingers with water while sculpting.
Place arepas in a hot pan, a few centimeters apart, making sure arepas do not touch. Cook between 3-4 minutes each side. Black spots are okay. When done, take them off the heat, and let cool for 5 minutes and serve with eggs or solo dolo.
Rachel Cabeza is a born and bred Queens, NY actor and writer. She loves skincare, beauty, fashion, and everything to do with wellness – from exercising to meditation. Her weekends consist of stunting in Prospect Park with my dog, Maya, trying to get their 10,000 steps in. She’s Colombian and it has become a recent mission of mine to gather an arsenal of family recipes native to my family’s hometown of Bucaramanga, Colombia.