Comfort food: Mazamorra

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, that’s because I’m pretty bad at this consistent blogging thing. I have a few posts in my mind that I want to do, but haven’t gotten around to writing. Here is a post that I hope you’ll like.

I hadn’t really heard about the whole comfort food concept until I was in college. It really made sense to me, but I never could think of anything that was a comfort food at the time. I mean when I get depressed the last thing I want to do is eat, but then I guess that’s asking a lot of comfort food, to make you feel good no matter what the situation. I do have comfort foods that have certain nostalgic appeal, a lot actually since food is what I missed the most when I went to live in the states. There is one comfort food that I can eat almost anytime and can only bring good things to mind: mazamorra.

The translation for mazamorra would be something like a corn pudding, which, to be honest, sounds kind of gross. It doesn’t even have a pudding consistency (well not the paisa kind that I like). Anyways, Mazamorra is a dish that’s made with corn and also exists in Peru, Paraguay*, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, and Panama in variations. In Peru mazamorra is made with purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon and sweet potato flour. I’ve never tried it, but if their chicha morada is any indication to how good purple corn can taste, then it must be delicious. In Puerto Rico and Costa Rica they do make something like a corn pudding and also in Paraguay, but they use their native “locro” variety of corn. In Argentina it’s also a well-known sweet dish made with corn, milk, and sugar and in Chile this dish is added to seasoned beans. In Colombia there are, as far as I know, two varieties of mazamorra. There is the soup made with corn flour, that’s the one you can find here in Bogotá, and that’s what you will get if you ask for mazamorra, or there is the paisa kind**, my comfort food (there’s also a variation from the coast that’s also sweet, but they add sweet plantains and costeño cheese. yum).  What’s so great about mazamorra paisa? Oh, let me tell you, but first a story.

This is my window. I have a new plant.

So over the past two weeks that I’ve been so intimate with Aristotle (super fun, yeah), as in writing a paper and such, I sit at my desk with the window open, and usually around  noon I hear in the street “mazamorra paisa, rica, calientica con leche y panela” (mazamorra paisa, delicious, warm with milk and unrefined whole cane sugar)***. It takes me out of my trance and then I start an inner dialogue where I wonder if I should have a snack break, but by the time I decide the guy on the motorcycle that is selling the mazamorra is too far, and I can barely hear the megaphone. But one day I finally just made up my mind and ran out and bought some.

Still warm.

Yeah, ok, it’s not that photogenic, but it tastes like my childhood in Manizales, the good parts of course, or that time my grandma visited us in Texas and made it from scratch (swoon). The way to make mazamorra paisa is to cook the corn, after letting it soak for the night, for a few hours until it’s white. Here you add a bit of baking soda. That’s pretty much it, you add some milk and panela (that’s how I like it) some people like it with bocadillo (sweet guava paste), but I don’t like bocadillo (yeah, what a shame, here everything is filled with it). You can store the cooked corn in the fridge and whenever you want some mazamorra you just add the rest. It’s actually considered a drink and when you’re in the paisa region you can opt for it instead of juice. I like it cold and with lots and lots of panela.

The panela is at the bottom.

Do you have any comfort foods like this?  Have you tasted mazamorra, or maybe would like to?

*I have a pet peeve of hearing people call Paraguay pah-rah-guey when it’s really called pah-rah-gwai.

**I really dislike the paisa accent and culture, but the food is the only thing I didn’t renounce to when I renounced my paisa nationality. I have since then adopted the rola (as in Bogotan) nationality and have no traces of my paisa accent, unless talking to my mom. I also have a trace of a Mexican accent which I’m also pretty proud of.

***I wish I’d gotten a recording of it. There’s also a guy that comes by with avocados that has such a distinct voice.

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4 Responses to Comfort food: Mazamorra

  1. vocabat says:

    Hmm. I only remember having mazamorra in Medellín, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good (or comforting) as how yours sounds. I would definitely say it was more like a soup, but drunk. I’ll have to try to make my own up here.

    Why do you really dislike the Paisa culture? Better put, what does that culture mean to you? I was only there for a few months, and since I worked from home and didn’t really have any friends, my circle and points of references were just my ex and his family. Since we broke up, obviously, I have no need to defend or identify with that culture. I am still curious, though, about understanding it as well as how they’re seen by the rest of the country. I do like the accent, though :)

    • Manu says:

      Yeah, I don’t know if it tastes that good, I mean after all it’s just corn, milk, and sugar. It’s kind of like those foods that you grow up with and can’t really explain why you like it so much.

      If we were playing a word association game and you said “paisa” I would say, “obnoxious, superficial, tacky, hypocritical, conservative.” To make an analogy, they are like the mid-west America of Colombia, except with plastic surgery. I don’t know if you could experience that first-hand because one, you’re from the States so you’re sort of untouchable for the paisas, and two you’re not gay or at least don’t dress like a little boy like me. Also, the paisas have terrible taste and are hated by pretty much the rest of the country.

  2. vocabat says:

    Man. Your words really left a strong impression on me, especially when you said that Paisas are hated by pretty much the rest of the country. Really, despised?? I never got that impression in Bogotá, and I knew many Paisas there. When I told people I was dating one, I remember that one girl jokingly said that she’d never date a Paisa “ni a palo”, but that was the worst of it.

    Here are the words I always heard about them (in Spanish because they were always the same words) : Emprendedores, animados, trabajadores, buenos negociantes (so, implying that they’re not always honest), very regionalistas, orgullosos, groseros en el lenguaje, frenteros, confiados, muy directos, the women are fáciles, etc. Of your list, I thought the most interesting ones were tacky, superficial, and that they have terrible taste. Tacky in what way? Taste in what?

    I’m sorry that you’ve had such negative experiences with Paisas, and I’m glad that identity is so fluid so as to allow you to leave behind one culture whose values you reject for another that accepts and values you as you are. I certainly don’t pretend to have a good feel for the Paisa culture. That’s why I asked. I can only draw from my admittedly limited time there. Still, for the two years that I was in Colombia, I can say that I was extremely observant and that my experiences were very diverse. Seeing as people and cultures are so complex and intricate, I know I just barely scratched the surface of understanding how things are down there, but I hope to understand things better with time.

    Also, what did you mean by I’m “untouchable” for Paisas?

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

    • Manu says:

      Obviously it’s a generalization, and like all generalizations in real life there will be a spectra of characteristics. The reason the rest of the country hates the paisas at their worst is because most of the presidents have been paisas and have been the worst presidents. Take Uribe as an example. There is, most of all a sort mutual hate between rolos and paisas stereotyped of course. That’s all in stereotypes and abstractly, so I’ll share some of my anecdotes with you.

      I used to live in south Texas on the border with Mexico. My best friend’s mom Berta was Mexican and of course had a Mexican accent, a pretty nice one too since she was from central Mexico. My mom (a paisa born and raised) used to get together with her friends (all paisas from antioquia) and she invited Berta me time cause my mom had ecome descomplicada in the states. Her friends, however, had not and they looked down on Berta for many reasons one of them because “no se arreglaba” and another because of her accent. My mom’s friends are really nice people, but their paisa culture makes them prejudiced like that. See the whole paisa culture is about appearance it’s about your last name “Ah, Gomez…” My grandma would rather eat lentejas all month than not pay for access to club Manizales, to go have lunch there. Three years ago I visited Manizales with my aunt and one of my cousin’s friend volunteered to hang out with me for the day. She brought some friends along and of course I was dressed in my usual semi-androgynous skater boi way and you should have seen the looks I got. They pretty much ignored me the whole time, then one asked what I was doing here and I said I was visiting from the States. After that they wanted to be my best friend all about me (people firmo the states are their idols). The word in Spanish is aparentar. Many paisas get fed up with that culture and they come here to Bogotá where nobody really cares what your last name is and the people who do go vacationing in Europe and study at Los Andes, so they don’t really have to aparentar son ricos, viven en Rosales, estrato 6, etc.

      The tacky and bad traste is due to my worldview. Paisas are always the loud people on the planes clapping and making noise. The women are usually dressed like sluts that is, after they’ve had plastic surgery. The men are super sexist. It’s mostly gusto de traqueto. They’re the kind of people que dan pena ajena. It’s alzo a rolo prejudice and can extend to any provinciano or wannabee.

      I guess it’s a whole different value system that I find repelling. I too am glad I can adopt my rolo identity.

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