It’s a Saturday morning. I finally get to sleep in after an exhausting week of work and class. My bed is warm, my room is dark, but then I remember that sleeping in isn’t the best part of this morning. It’s the fact that as soon as I get up, I’ll be greeted by arepas: the thing I most look forward to on weekend mornings since pretty much ever. At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m being dramatic. You’re not wrong, but here’s the thing. Arepas have contributed wholeheartedly to the development of my identity as a Latina, even more so than growing up in Miami.
That’s a lot to say, considering Miami is a melting pot of Latino culture. Every country has it’s own version of an arepa, but one time, I heard it being referred to as “el pan de los venezolanos,” and I was like: YES!
I’m not claiming that Venezuelan arepas are the best arepas. I’m also not saying that they’re strictly a Venezuelan thing. I’ve had multiple varieties, and I’m no culinary expert, so I can’t 100 percent say with absolute certainty that my country’s arepas are IT. But they’re IT for me.
My family moved to Miami when I was three-years-old, so it hasn’t always been easy for me to relate to every single aspect of Venezuelan culture, but arepas are one of the only aspects that I’ve got down packed, and it makes me feel a little bit more, well, legit.
I learned to make them when I was 13 and granted, it took me a little while to get it right but when I did, I was unstoppable. I could make breakfast for my entire family, allowing me to feel like I could do something to make us closer.
I felt even more Venezuelan than I ever did, even more than when I took trips there as a kid, or when I would wrap myself in my flag during government protests. Is it silly to say that a food item contributed to my self esteem? Maybe, but it’s not without good reason.
Waking up to arepas on weekend mornings has been like a family tradition for the past 19 years of my life. My parents, my brother, and I sit in the dining room around an elaborate spread of butter, ham, cheese, eggs, perico, avocado, leftover chicken and fish from the week, and basically anything in the fridge that can make a decent topping. You can literally put anything on an arepa and somehow, it makes sense. You can have them for any meal of the day and they work.
I want to call it a sandwich, but that doesn’t even feel right. It’s not a bun either, and you can’t compare it to an English muffin. An arepa is different, and a Venezuelan arepa? I can’t explain it unless you taste it. And all you need to do is add salt and water to the white flour in the yellow P.A.N. bag. Mind blowing.
So thanks, arepas, for giving me a little piece of my country even though we’re so far away. Thanks for letting me feel a little more Latina. Thanks for giving my family an opportunity to bond. Thanks for reminding me of where I come from. Sorry I’m so obsessed with you, but TBH, #notsorry.