This next country that has pissed me off recently was kind of a toss-up, and I’ll explain why in a moment. The bottom line is that Chris and I ate Venezuelan food tonight. And Hugo Chavez really does piss me off, just not for the reasons you’d think.
I don’t care that his country calls itself a democracy, even though the only two parties are “socialist” and “communist,” which I feel are basically the same thing. If they’ve looked around the globe and thought to themselves “Those Western assholes have so much nice stuff and freedom, it’s gross. We’d prefer to model ourselves after such stunningly successful nations as North Korea and Cuba,” then I support that. I’m not McCarthy, and even though I feel like communism is like the kid sitting alone in the corner of the playground eating twigs and waiting for smaller children to come by so it can trip them, I like the idea that there are different ideas out there. Only how come the communist countries always turn out to be such jerks?
I don’t care if he said George W. was the devil, because I pretty much said the same thing on numerous occasions. As a matter of fact, sometimes I’ll be wrestling with a particularly stubborn jar lid, and I’ll call it the devil. It’s just a figure of speech…unless you’re referring to George W. in which case it’s a valid argument.
I don’t even care that he has a giant fat head, and his lips are the same color as his facial skin, which is gross and makes him look a lot like an underground mole who has popped up from a hole in the ground and become possessed with the power of speech. Hell, I don’t have to kiss him.
No, what really pisses me off about Hugo Chavez (and he’s sadly tied to Venezuela) is his ego. He threw out ambassadors from the US, in a move that clearly said “if you don’t play my way, you can’t come to my birthday party.” He called Obama a “poor ignoramus” and gave him a socialist tract like some sort of door-to-door doomsday religious zealot. He said that he would play the “oil card” hard against the US, which is sort of like the ugly person playing hard to get, since they’re not even in our top three oil sources….all in all, he’s just a total weiner. And then I read the following sentence, while researching Venezuelan cuisine: Besides the main ingredients like yucca, corn, beans and bananas some people even eat turtles, tapirs, monkeys, birds and deep fried ants. Fuckin YUCK, alright. I know there are plenty of countries that consume bugs like we consume high-fructose corn syrup, and that’s fine, but let’s not list DEEP FRIED ANTS as one of the national cuisines. Ugh.
I decided to go for the gold and make their national dish, Pabellón criollo. Actually, that’s false. Initially I intended on going for the silver and making arepas, which are little corn pitas that are stuffed with whatever. I liked the idea of having a very clearly defined cultural cuisine that I could go willy-nilly on the fillings and nobody could say anything bad about it. I felt free, I felt light, I felt airy…and then I felt like I had to put my metaphorical underpants back on, because no grocery store anywhere around here sells the main ingredient to make arepas–P.A.N. That’s what it’s called, most commonly. Also harina precocada, since it’s basically just a pre-cooked masa (cornmeal flour). The grocery store had masa harina coming out the bajango, but no sign of P.A.N. anywhere, including the bodega I drummed up the courage to enter. With one side of my facial muscles completely flaccid from waaaay to much novocaine (thanks, dental profession, for once again making me fear you!).
So that’s how I came to the executive decision to make the national dish. This, my loves, is the national dish It’s got quite a few components. First, flank steak, braised, shredded, then simmered in sofrito, which is a combination of red and green bell peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Then garlicky rice. Then black beans mashed up and simmered in the broth left from braising the meat. Then fried plantains. It’s meant to look EXACTLY LIKE the Venezuelan national flag!
Clearly looks nothing like the Venezuelan flag
A fun fact about this national dish is that during Lent, they make it using fish. An even more fun fact is that during Lent, they also make it using Capybaras. The reasoning behind this is that during the 1700s, the Vatican declared Capybara to be fish.
Clearly not a fish
No pope since then has disagreed. I’d love to be a kid in THAT science class “Let’s apply taxonomy to the capybara! Kingdom? That’s right, Billy. Capybara belong to the kingdom of Jesus. Phylum? That’s right, Jessica. Capybara belong to the phylum of God’s creatures. Class? No, Tommy. That’s incorrect. Capybara belong to the class of FISH.” This is a make or break moment for Tommy. Either he can say “yeah, FISH!” and belong to the group and carry little homemade dioramas depicting abortion at the next protest, or he can call bullshit and say “it has legs. And it’s walking. On land.” And then he’ll be a sinner.
Regardless of this slight bout of absurdity, the food turned out to be pretty awesome. I mean, sure, rice and beans are just fillers. But the beans simmered in the concentrated stock were better than most, and the meat/sofrito was mouthwatering and juicy and all good things. Lots of work to prepare, but worth it. And I’m not a fanboy of plantains, but I guess they were okay, just kind of hanging out at the top of the plate. The only thing I noticed is that there weren’t really any vegetables in sight. Starches, sure. Especially after I added some gorditas (close enough to arepas to count). Proteins? All over the place. But vegetables? Not so much. Which leads me to my main contention, which is that Hugo Chavez is constipated. Which means he’s allowed to be angry. So go ahead and rail against the US, Mr. Chavez. I understand completely. And you’ll understand when I ignore your socialist tract and give you some Dulcolax liqui-gels, right?