Venezuelan Cuisine and Recipes
Venezuelan Recipes, Food and Cooking
by Country - June 2004
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Venezuela is the sixth
largest country in South America lying at the northern end of the continent. It
is bordered by Colombia to the West, Brazil to the South, Guyana to the East,
and the Caribbean Sea to the North and really, is as much a Caribbean country as
a South American one. The landscape consists of mountains (The Andes), large
areas of Amazonian rain forests, central fertile plains, lowlands to the north
and a 2,800km coastline on the Caribbean Sea. It even has even a small desert.
Add to this a tropical climate and you have all
the ingredients to produce fine home grown livestock and crop.
Times, Influences and history of Venezuelan Cooking
In early times the rich and bountiful lands of
Venezuela easily sustained the hunter-gatherer nomads occupying the area and
archaeological evidence shows that by 2,000 BC, three main tribes namely the
Arawaks, Caribs and Chibcha had settled in the coastal and Llanos (plains)
regions. Although all of them practiced farming to some extent, the fact that
they had an abundance of fish, seafood, wild animals and indigenous fruit and
vegetables on their doorsteps meant that full time farming wasn’t essential.
However, complicated crop irrigation and agricultural methods were practiced by
the Chibcha, the most advanced of the three tribes who lived on the eastern
slopes of the Andes.
One important crop cultivated early on (certainly by the Arawaks) was cassava, a
root vegetable from which bread was made. They also grew corn (maize), squash,
beans, peppers, sweet potatoes, yams and peanuts.
The arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498 brought with it Spanish
colonisation. Initially searching for gold, attentions were soon turned to
agriculture and with enthusiasm for chocolate reaching fever pitch in Europe by
the mid 1700s, cocoa plantations were all the rage in Venezuela. At first
indigenous Indian labour was used, however with a decrease in the population due
to “imported” diseases such as measles and smallpox, slaves from Africa were
soon to be imported, bringing with them their cultures and culinary habits.
Also a large number of Spanish immigrants were attracted to Venezuela.
With few Spanish women willing to brave this New World country, the
European men soon intermixed with both the indigenous Indian women and the
imported African women adding another dimension to the country’s cuisine and the
beginnings of a more diverse population and cuisine.
The raising of cattle also became an important economic venture and many ranches
or haciendas sprung up across the plains.
Day Venezuelan Cuisine
The food in Venezuela today is a mixture of
African, native Indian and European cuisines which has evolved over the
centuries. It also shares many Caribbean influences in its flavours, techniques
and ingredients. It is a flavoursome but not necessarily hot cuisine, using
ingredients like sweet peppers, garlic, onions and coriander as flavour
Corn is a staple and is used to make pancakes of one type or another although
wheat is also used. Instead of bread, most Venezuelans eat arepas which are
fried or baked corn pancakes, either plain or with a filling. You can find out
more about Arepas in the Speciality Dish in this section. Other staples include
beans and rice.
Fried and grilled fish such as trout, red snapper, baby shark (cazon), and
shellfish such as oysters prawns and clams are popular and meats such as beef
and chicken are common everyday foods, although other meats such as goat are
preferred in certain regions, with pork eaten mostly at Christmas.
There is still an abundance of locally grown fruit and vegetables in Venezuela
including Mango, papaya , avocado, bananas, coconut, melon, pineapple and guava.
Cassava is still widely cultivated as are plantains which are served at most
meals, rice, potatoes and yams. Yellow, black, and white beans, tomatoes,
lettuce, cabbage, carrots, aubergine, cucumber and peas are amongst the many
other vegetables grown and extensively consumed.
The largest meal in Venezuela is eaten between 12 and 3pm and many Venezuelans
return home for lunch. The evening meal usually consists of a light supper at
around 8pm or later.
Click here for
lots of Venezuelan recipes