The inocentes in: A Sancocho Kind of Afternoon

12 Mar

We have new friends.

Well, not “new”, but new enough. Our first set of friends are all architects and urban planners. This set of friends hail from a more musical space: they are all musicians. Maria Eugenia and her husband Emilio have just returned to Colombia after almost a decade and a half abroad, living in Maryland. While both are musicians (flautists), Emilio worked at a repair shop in Maryland dealing with all types of instruments. His boss, Steve, made his first trip down to Colombia this week, and in a fitting send-off we had a day at a finca complete with shots of aguardiente, walks in the countryside and a very hearty (very delicious) sancocho.

Through Maria & Emilio, we’ve now met two or three other flautists, a cellist and an oboist, some of them members of the Medellín Philharmonic and all of them, without question, fun-loving people.

We went to the finca of Paul with a big group of 10 in tow. We left early enough in the morning to make breakfast a complication (830), especially considering that we were hungry but wanted to leave a lot of room for sancocho. At 930 we decided to stop briefly at one of the many restaurants lining the drive up through the mountains to Rionegro. We had hot cups of chocolate and plates of chorizo and arepitas (little, hockey puck-like arepas). We also had shots of aguardiente. At 930 in the morning. It was going to be a long and very interesting day.

We arrived at Paul’s finca soon thereafter. The rustic, bumpy roads leading up to his country home were peppered with military postmen with semi-automatic weapons. Paul told us that in this specific area–Llanogrande, where his wife’s family has had their finca for years and years–there are a number of high-profile governmental officials who have bought fincas in recent years. He could point us to Alvaro Uribe’s finca (former President of Colombia) and just up the hill from him was another governmental official’s finca. When we casually inquired as to whom the postmen were expecting, they were forthcoming and told us the Minister of Defense was planning to visit the finca up the road from us. No biggie.

When we finally pulled into the finca, it was time to set up shop and start cooking sancocho. Well, really, the first step was to light the fire in the outdoor pit so that we could bring out a huge, earthern pot in which to cook the sancocho, country-style. We sated our rumbling tummies with bites of a fresh orange cake and shots of aguardiente.

Being at a finca, for me, is always kind of magical. You’re alone with your thoughts, the wind, the sound of your own breathing and birdsong. Medellín is filled with noise–cars, motorcycles, music, chatter–but Paul’s finca was welcomingly devoid of that white noise, save for the police motorcycles that every once in a while would stream up or down the hill behind us.

While my mind wandered, Emilio and company had already built a nice fire, warmed the pot and began adding ingredients. First came the pot of broth; second came the pot of pureed vegetables and cilantro; next came the potatoes, corn cobs and yucca; fourth the plantains. That stewed together for awhile over a crackling fire, and sooner than I realized we were sitting at the table, serving ourselves hearty bowls of sancocho de gallina and spooning in extras like rice, hot sauce and guacamole. It was heaven.

After we feasted, we all went for a short walk up the hill to check out the views. When we dead-ended between two private driveways, we took a few photos of the mountains and the countryside and enjoyed the very, very light, refreshing rain that was falling in big, sporadic drops. We heard a car in the distance, rumbling up the road. Eventually, we realized it was more than one car; it was a virtual caravan. Two police motorcycle escorts, one police car and three SUVs with impossibly tinted windows drove right past us into one of the driveways as we stood there in our post-sancocho stupor, slack-jawed and google-eyed (that was just me, though).

So, if that was former President Uribe, I’m pretty sure I made a good impression. Just sayin’.

The remainder of the day was spent lounging around the finca, me taking quick naps on Greg’s shoulder between beers and shots of aguardiente. By evening, it was time to roll ourselves into the car and back down to Medellín, still very full but content after a long day.

Also, there was some craziness as I wormed my way into bed when the local Clásico in Liga Postobon finished up (the Clásico here is between Nacional Medellín and crosstown rivals Medellín). I heard the clatter of galloping horses outside and I thought “maybe there are some campesinos in town who are riding home on their horses”, which is not totally out of the question but is kind of stupid. Greg told me to get up and watch the craziness unfold as a dozen crowd control police on horseback chased a number of errant youths through the streets of Carlos E and down the very busy Avenida Colombia, right outside of our home. We counted no less than 30 motorcycle police, along with a string of fire trucks and ambulances posted up on Colombia, conferring with one another. There was also the very futuristically terrifying riot police truck. LOOK AT THAT THING!

Once the excitement was over we curled up into bed and fell into some sweet sancocho dreams.

Seriously, I am still full right now.

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