AREPAS, the traditional food of Venezuela, was celebrated in TT last Saturday as part of World Arepa Day.
It was the first time arepa day – observed every second Saturday of September – was held in an organised way in TT, Andreina Briceño, founder and director of the Hispanic Cultural Centre, told Newsday.
It was an afternoon of reunions between Venezuelan friends and new friendships with locals at the La Casita point of the centre on Pro Queen Street, Arima.
“We made a general invitation, especially to the Trinidadian community with the aim of making the arepa known, its origins and form of preparation. Many local people have been interested in this traditional Venezuelan food and attended the event to learn a little more,” said Briceño.
During the day, Venezuelan chefs prepared 110 arepas with different textures – the traditional reina pepiada, perico, the domino, among other varieties.
“We show the habitants of Trinidad and Tobago part of the culture of Venezuela,” she said.
The arepas were sold at affordable prices with the intention of promoting their preparation.
There was also Venezuelan music to the rhythm of the drums by members of the centre, as well as domino games.
Jesús Hernández, one of the Venezuelan visitors who joined the initiative, highlighted the importance of sharing the cultural traditions of his country.
“Trinidad and Tobago is a multicultural country, with impressive cuisine and a lot of flavour. The vast majority of Trinidadians who share day to day with us Venezuelans are interested in knowing about our meals, they even taste and like them,” he said.
He believes many TT household will now begin to try this type of food from Venezuela.
“One of the positive things that can be seen from the crisis in Venezuela, is that now in the whole world they know about our traditions,” he said.
In July 2012, a group of Venezuelans made the decision to organise an event to support their compatriots who are abroad. An event was held where a large number of Venezuelans were mobilised abroad to host a world “arepazo” event, and as of 2013, it was chosen that the second Saturday of September would be World Arepa Day.
This day is celebrated in more than 80 cities – from Tokyo to New York. The arepa has conquered the palates of different nationalities and a new “arepera” is created every day. It is present in countries such as Germany, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Canada, Spain, Brazil and now also in TT.
The celebration has the support of modern social networks, in which Venezuelans living abroad can comment on their best anecdotes about that delicious creole food.
Also called cornbread, the arepa has been tasted since pre-Hispanic times. It is prepared as well-cooked cornmeal dough and ground corn or, as the vast majority, with precooked cornmeal.
The arepa is shaped like a round tortilla and depending on the region it can be large or small, thin or thick. They are roasted on a budare (cast iron griddle), turning them until they are cooked on both sides.
In Venezuelan homes, arepas are consumed every day at breakfast and dinner. The arepa is very versatile because of the variety of fillings with which it is prepared. The most popular is the reina pepiada, filled with a preparation based on roasted chicken meat, avocado and mayonnaise; as well as those of white cheese, yellow cheese or hand cheese. They are also stuffed with pernil – a slow-roasted marinated pork leg or pork shoulder – sausage or mixed, which combine two or more stews.