Medellin holds on very strongly to their traditional – very heavy, very greasy – Paisa food. In much of South America, the tradition is to eat a ginormous lunch. Meat, rice, plantains, soups, arepas, fries, beans or lentils, and what barely counts as a salad. Oh, and some kind of usually milk and fruit blended drink. But in Medellin, Colombia, this traditional gigantic lunch is particularly greasy and heavy and everything is dripping with oil.
Medellin has an inexplicable detest for variety. There is usually very little, if any, spices or flavour to the dishes. Everything is fried. Deep fried. Fried to the point I am convinced Medellin thinks vegetable oil counts as a vegetable.
And many times, low-heat, deep fried, so their ‘fries’, along with everything else, are soggy and you can literally squeeze the oil out of them. Its amazing that people are not more obese then they already are. The tiny, if any, dinners they eat; which are commonly a piece of bread and hot cocoa, or an arepa with egg (again egg fried in butter), are the only saving grace to the waistlines of the Paisa.
I’m pretty sure Medellin has American beat on the morbid obesity scale.
The best (worst?) of these greasy, fat-rich, calorie-rich, pound-producing meals is Bandeja Paisa. It consists of:
ground beef, chorizo, chicharron (inch or so thick pork fat and rind slices, that are deep fried until similar to medium cooked bacon; crispy yet fatty) , rice, beans, mozamorra (a cream and corn dish-drink) served with a tiny slice of bocadillo, (a guava paste sugar gummy thing), fried plantain slices, sliced avocado with salt, a fried egg, and a few tiny shards of lettuce with onion, or cabbage with carrot they call salad.
I would love to find out just how many calories are in this dish.
It is no surprise then, that Medellin has quite a weight-problem. Walking around you will see many many spare tires. Curves are sexy here, but more often than not, you see fat flopping over the tops of pants, not curves. Medellin women in fact, have almost no hips. There legs go straight down from where their waists should be. You see extreme amounts of weight gain around the stomach (the worse kind of weight gain), versus larger hips and thighs (still not healthy, but not as conducive to heart attacks).
Medellin is so strong in their traditional food, they are refusing to allow new gastronomical creations into their culture. Where places like Bogota, and Cali have more varied food and actual fresh fish Medellin refuses to try new things. Fresh fish in Medellin consists of severely freezer-burned fillets – that they, surprise, – deep fry the fuck out of on low heat so the fish absorbs ridiculous amounts of oil.
Though, I did finally find there is a tiny corner in La Minorista where it is possible to get fresh fish some days. Too bad its so expensive.
Surprisingly, except really for fish – which if you CAN find fresh costs a small fortune – they actually have quite a variety of fruits and spices available (except Asian food. They just don’t have a lot of Asian influence in Medellin). But if you cook yourself, its surprising how many spices you can find in a country that seems to have a phobia towards them.
Yes, Medellin is also known for its beautiful women, and most people here – no matter their size – are quite beautiful. But most women are quite large or obviously created by doctors. Those in shape still lean toward the larger side. It is actually much rarer to see an thin or athletically shaped woman over high school age, and quite common to see middle-heavy, muffin-topped ladies. The men, however, seem to stay thinner than the women on average. This is probably due to the men doing everything (women here are still very ‘damsel in distress-y’ about stuff. Not all by any means, but you see it quite a bit.)
Medellin is beautiful, warm, filled with super nice people, but if you are expecting to eat healthy or see some of the culinary variety you can find in the rest of South America, you will be disappointed.
I think Medellin needs to do what our parents always taught us and TRY NEW THINGS.
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.