This past weekend I got to celebrate our annual camping reunion with my family. My cousins have been planning it since March and to see it finally come together and everyone having a great time was well worth the wait. I have been counting down the days waiting for the craziness to begin and the festivities did not disappoint. It was by far the largest turnout we've had since we began our annual reunions a couple of years ago. We had about 60 people show up, mostly cousins and a few close family friends. When my boyfriend, my mom, my aunt arrived at the campsite on Friday night it was already 11:30pm and my family had already taken up an entire section of the campsite. I called my sister, who arrived a little before we did, to figure out where exactly we were located. All she told me to do was follow the road and the noise, and sure enough we arrived at our camping location.
By the time we unpacked and set up our tents it was probably close to 1am, that's when I started to hear my mom, aunt, and cousins clamoring for some fresh coffee (Yes, at 1am they were going crazy asking for fresh coffee). We are not talking about a cup of some highly caffeinated coffee that makes you jittery. We are talking about a very small cup of smooth, sweet, and hot tinto, just the way Colombians like it. Very slowly, everyone started to settle around the biggest fire, drinking coffee, beers, and liquor. The conversations lasted until the wee hours of the morning. As the morning slowly started to catch up to everyone in the campsite you started to see those with kids drifting off to their tents, while the bunch that was drinking got louder and rowdier. You have to love camping with the family! =)
When I got up the next morning I was ready to eat! I woke to the sound of my nieces asking for their tetero or bottle, the rattling of pots and grilling grates, and the smell of logs and coal, burning in preparation for breakfast. If there is one thing I love about camping with my family is that it's always a food fest. Breakfast isn't your typical PB&J (peanut butter & jelly) or ham and cheese sandwich. We are talking about a full out home cooked meal over an open fire. That's why I love being the bystander, photographer, and part-time flame blower, I get to enjoy every minute of the experience knowing that what I am about to eat is going to be ridiculously amazing!
That morning's breakfast consisted of fresh Colombian coffee, agua panela con limon y canela or a whole cane sugar block with limes and cinnamon sticks, arepas con queso Colombiano or corn cakes with Colombian cheese, and huevos pericos or scrambled eggs with tomatoes and scallions, all made over burning logs and coal. That's what you call a typical Colombian desayuno campero or a camper's breakfast. When it came time to cook, no one really assigned tasks, everyone just volunteered to participate in preparing some aspect of the breakfast. While mom made fresh coffee using a reusable cloth filter or what we call a colador, my cousin boiled water in a giant pot and mixed the panelas with lime juice and cinnamon cloves. At the same time, another cousin and a family friend where busy cracking and beating the eggs in constant harmony. As the assembly line progressed more people joined in. They were tasked with keeping the flames from burning out, stirring the huevos pericos so they don't dry out, flipping the arepas so they don't completely burn. Let's not forget about our hungry bystanders, who huddled around the flames watching and waiting to get the first batch of food from the fire.
To make things simpler, the tomatoes and the scallions were cut ahead of time. Cutting anything while you camp can be arduous, so making some aspects of the meal ahead of time is simply a lot less messy and a time saver. As for the arepas, we bought them in bulk from the store and froze them. Though my mom did prepare some arepas from scratch, she was only able to make enough so that a few of us could enjoy them for lunch. It is possible to make them ahead of time and preserve them in the freezer. You just need to be realistic about the amount of time you want to spend preparing enough for everyone. My great aunt, who was one of the last living matriarchs of the family, might have balked at our new found laziness, but in today's day and age sometimes there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. I'm sure she would have still been proud at our attempt of keeping our cooking traditions alive.
At the end, the eggs, the coffee, and the corn cakes had that beautiful smokiness that you get when you cook outdoors over an open fire. The agua panela turned out to be a sweet and refreshing treat that served as a breakfast dessert. Everything was made in batches and all in all we must have used more than 8 dozen eggs. The first batch of eggs dried out a little too much because of how close the pot was to the flames but that was corrected in later batches. Never serve a Colombian dried eggs, I don't know how many times I heard someone pass by reminding whoever was stirring the eggs not to dry them out.
Once everyone was served, there were a couple of folk that went out looking for seconds. Even after having seconds, we still had a pot full of leftover eggs that someone ended up eating for lunch, lol. All in all, we had an amazing breakfast, and most importantly we ate as a family. There were no fights and no arguments, only great food, great friends, and great times!
I really hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about my Colombian family and our breakfast cooking traditions. Stay tuned as I'll be writing more about some of the other foods we prepared during my family's camping reunion.
Buen provecho! =)