Ellen and I love eating, so it comes as no surprise that we are loving Colombian food.

At a fruit and vegetable market in Santa Rosa, we stopped for a bottle of Kumis, a fermented milk drink that tastes a bit like carbonated yogurt. Most places sell prepackaged plastic cups of it, but this stand sold traditional glass bottles of kumis, which had been fermented along the back wall of the shop. The shopkeeper carefully selected four bottles from the fridge, scooped spoonfuls of raw sugar into the mouths of the bottles using the palm of his hand as a funnel, added some kind of brown syrup, and blended the drink by shaking the bottles with his hand over the top of it. I’m sure a Canadian health inspector would have had a fit, but the drink was delicious, with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top as a finishing touch.

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Almost every meal here is served with an arepa, a kind of thick white or yellow corn tortilla. The ones we’ve eaten at our cousin’s house have been about the shape and size of a Greek pita bread. They’re served hot and buttered after being toasted over a fire, topped with egg for breakfast or alongside a soup for dinner. In Cartagena they were stuffed with cheese and fried on a grill, like a thick pita or stuffed pancake. We saw some at a street cart in Cartago that were topped with ham and shredded cheese, and I’ve seen signs for them in restaurants stuffed with all kinds of fillings. Some, called arepa de chocolo, are light and fluffy, while others are thick and unleavened. No matter what kind, they’re delicious.

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Street food: arepa with chorizo, and various stuffed pastries

The local specialty of Santa Rosa is chorizo sausages. They’re not the hot and spicy chorizo you get in Canada, but small and more gently flavoured. They come in long links and range from tiny two-inch babies to almost foot-long monster sausages. Our cousin Daisy is vegetarian, but nonetheless serves meat occasionally, so on our first night here, for New Year’s Eve, we had tiny little chorizos cooked over a barbecue. With toasty arepas and cheese, little orange fruits that tasted like squash, and local microbrewed beer, it was quite a feast indeed!

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