I have a confession: I love street food. I know it’s wrong. I know the vendors aren’t stalwarts of sanitation. And I know the majority of it is not the world’s shining beacon to healthy eating. All of this knowledge, however, has not stopped me from indulging in the culinary treats that the street offers.
In Canada (my home country,) street food is rather easy to avoid. Canadians enjoy the most square kilometers of land per a person in the world, as well as the coldest average temperature in the world. These two unique conditions have turned many Canadians into suburbanite road warriors, with no desire to walk the streets, and therefore little market for street food vendors. In Colombia, however, street food is everywhere. The bustling calles full of hungry Colombianos create the perfect marketplace for a motivated vendor to entice the masses.
Plate of delicious street ribs.
I’ve been told many times that I shouldn’t eat street food. I realize this is sound advice. Logically I agree with my well-meaning friend whenever they dish out this tidbit of wisdom. However, my curious nature finds it hard to pass up a cart of delicious grub. How can I not try the cheese stuffed, deep-fried, artery-clogging, insert-name-of-food-here thing that is offered? Passing up said food would be a crime against my curious (and hungry) nature.
A vendor preparing my scrumptious dinner.
The street food of Colombia encompasses a broad range of the culinary treats that Colombia has to offer. You can find everything from the ubiquitous empanada, to the freshly wrung juices of a guanabana (delicious.) If these examples sound foreign to you, then you are beginning to understand why my curiosity gets the best of me when traveling and I succumb to the calls, smells, and delicacies of street food.
The main concern that many have for passing on the treats of the streets is of a sanitary nature. Travelers fear getting sick, and the food and beverages that we consume while traveling are a major cause of internal problems. I’ve been lucky in these regards. I’ve indulged in the wares of vendors from Beijing to Bogota and only once ever had a problem, and it was minor in nature.
Does this lulo look so dangerous?
This isn’t to say that street food is healthy. Even without the viable sanitation concerns, there are valid reasons for bypassing the call of the vendor; mainly the stoppage of one’s heart from an overdose of saturated fats doused in salt. Valid point indeed, but since said heart attack isn’t instant, I somehow seem to ignore this health warning.
You may be asking “why the hell is he so into his street food?” Valid question. Why risk the health concerns that are involved in order to get fed? Well, it’s not just the fact that I’m a hungry, curious person, although this is a contributing factor. I feel like to truly understand a place, you need to eat like a local. You will never truly understand Bangkok without a Pad Thai, and you’ll never truly understand Bogota without a hot chocolate and cheese.
Food is part of the cultural fabric.
To eat street food you are indulging in what the locals eat. By avoiding the activities of the locals, you are observing the culture, instead of digesting the culture. I say dig in. Live life on the edge. Order that empanada, and wash it down with jugo de maracuya. What’s the worst that could happen? A hospital visit . . .