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Venezuelan ArepaOne of the things I love about visiting the Caribbean is that the people love to eat. In fact, watching your weight is impossible in a Caribbean country because they are always putting fried plantains, fried conch, fried yucca, and all kinds of other foods that will expand your waistline. Don t worry too much though because when you re in one of these countries, you ll be dancing all night and most of the time you ll be walking most of the day.

Many beaches in many parts of the Caribbean are relatively unknown to us gringos. One of the most beautiful beaches I ve ever been to was in Panama. It s called the Isla Grande. And it was so calm and peaceful with palm trees, miles of sparkling sand, and turquoise waters and not much of anything else. It made me feel the way Columbus must have felt when he came to parts of the new world that were so untouched.

Enough about basking on a deserted beach in Panama, I want to tell you about the bacalao I ate in Panama. First, you must understand the word Panama came from the Indians and it means an abundance of fish. Not surprisingly their favorite dish down there is bacalao which is a dish of codfish, potatoes and eggs. It s served like a very thick stew.

Now let s talk about Venezuela. First of all, I wouldn t recommend visiting there right now. I got to visit there before the current regime and Caracas is an unbelievably beautiful and modern city. They have a subway that is clean and safe and the way the city is nestled between the verdant mountains makes it one of the most picturesque cities in the world.

There are three things I think of when I think of Venezuelan food. And that s:

  • Ropa vieja
  • Arepas
  • Pancakes

No, that s not a typo. The best pancakes I ve ever had were in Venezuela. They make them out of corn or wheat. I m not sure which ones I ate, but they were very good.

Ropa vieja is something I liked so much that I learned how to make it. Ropa vieja means old clothes and when you see how it s served, you ll understand why they named it that. It s flank steak cooked with tomatoes and garlic and when it s served, it falls apart in long strips making it look like a bunch of old clothes thrown on the floor. But don t let me turn you off to this dish. It s great! The meat is soft and has just the right amount of spices. Eat it with black beans, white rice, and a few platanos, if you can.

The arepas must be the favorite dish of the Venezuelans. Arepa is a word borrowed from the Indians and they are a type of bread that is made from corn. Lots of times they stuff the bread with cheese, beef, chicken, cheese, or beans. Some are fried and others are baked. Just make sure that if you have some Venezuelan friends that they make you some arepas. They re all very good and, it appears, everyone makes them a little different, but don t pass them up.

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