Fish broth in Barranquilla
It’s Carnival in Barranquilla. There are marimondas, negritas Puloy, ITALgarabatos, monocucos, and many other traditional figures joyfully wandering in every street. There is dancing in all the ways the locals know: cumbia, mapalé, chandé, fandango, porro, merecumbé, bullerenge. There are kids, adults, pets, houses, and cars dressed up in colorful costumes.
A very well-organized recocha (which Urban Dictionary defines as “to be disorderly in the name of fun”) reigns in the town. There also is, of course, lots of alcohol involved. It’s been like that for more than a century, so the mayor and the police have agreed to make an exception from the recent national law that forbids the consumption of alcohol in public spaces.
If you ever come for the Carnival and you want to keep up and party non-stop during the five-day celebration, you need to know how to hold yourself together. What does it for me is food.
“Are you really gonna have fish soup for breakfast?” my German girlfriend, Sabeth, asks with a surprised expression on her face.
I inspect her side of the table. Her plate is filled with two carimañolas (yucca dough stuffed with ground beef), one arepa e huevo (corn dough stuffed with a fried egg and extra ground beef), suero costeño (a fermented milk-based dip) and corozo juice. I smile. It makes me proud how much she enjoys our fried-stuff cuisine.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she defends herself, “for me it’s different. I’m a foreigner, I’m supposed to try as much as I can.”
“Yeah, right. You’re just embracing our culture. Nothing to do with you being a good eater.”
“Look, it is not fish soup. Not technically. This is just a caldo, a broth. A real soup would include a big piece of fish, potatoes, green plantains, yuca, ñame. The real deal. Wanna try?”
“It’s breakfast time. Soup is for lunch,” she argues.
“In Germany you guys have Weisswurstfrühstück… and that’s with beer.”
“That does not count. That’s Bavarian,” she says, making her Germany-is-bigger-than-Bavaria-you-people face.
“Wanna try it or not?”
She does. She always does. And her closed eyes confirm what I expected: She loves it.
We eat. I dive to the bottom of my plate and find a pleasant surprise, at least for me.
“Look, I got a prize!”
“What is that?” she asks.
“It’s the eye. I love this but I’m willing to give it away just for you. Wanna try?”
She always does.