Friday, August 13, 2010

One Family's Return Trip: Participating in the Informal Economy


A few weeks ago, I posted about the informal economy of Colombia. You can read more here:


Little did I know that I would get a chance to participate in it when I wrote the post. I have a niece that recently lost her job and is struggling to support her 2 children. So, she decided to sell Arepas del Horno on the street. This kind of job is called the "rebusque". It roughly means doing anything to earn money.

The arepas she sells are traditional in Tolima where she grew up, but have never been seen in Sogamoso, Boyaca. The arepa dough is cooked in a clay oven in little metal tins called a "paila". The cooked arepa is then removed, cut in half and a slice of cheese is added which melts from the heat of the recently cooked arepa. They are truly delicious!!

Since we were in Ferias y Fiestas, there were a lot of people looking for food on the street, so she needed help taking the grains off of the cob of 100 pounds of corn. We all got involved. The process is as follows:

1. Shuck the corn.

2. Take each grain off the cob by hand.
Whoa Nellie!, before your gringo(a) nature gets the better of you -- I suggested that cutting them off would be faster and less painful on the thumbs, but according to EVERYONE in the family, this leaves too much of the corn on the cob itself and is wasteful of the raw material needed to make the arepa.

Everyone got involved, even my rarely seen in the kitchen Father-in-Law brought in two huge bowlfuls of corn grains.

3. Mill the corn in a hand mill.

4. Make the arepa dough -- no pictures available as the recipe is a closely guarded secret.

5. Move everything to the street.

6. Help cook and sell the arepas.


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