Upon traveling to Cartagena, Colombia I imagined tasty Colombian food cuisine. Never did I dream of eating traditional African food so far from Africa. We booked a tour with Freddy Pez, a local known in the Black Travel Movement group on Facebook, and he told us of a town that was the first free African settlement in the Americas. The town is called San Basilio de Palenque or Palenke and it's about 2 hours north of Cartagena. We knew lunch was included, but the tour guide said we're in for a treat. He arranged for us to eat at a local house and made sure we would have the best experience as possible. This blog is not about the community itself, but about how the food was prepared and served. We had to provide our food request a day before ensure our meal will be fresh. If you know me, I'm not a real big seafood connoisseur and I try to avoid it at all cost outside of my home. I say that because I let my friends talk me into ordering the fish, which was a mistake on my part. After the tour of the town, we made our way back to one of the couple's home and was greeted with hugs and smiles.
Walking into her dinning room we saw 5 large banana leaves placed down as dinner mats. They were used as plates which is customary in their community. The wife gave us some freshly squeezed juice and it was delicious. I had several cups of it, and she didn't mind refilling our cups! After about 10 minutes the main course came out and like I said before it was at that moment, I knew…. I messed up! As soon as I saw the fish looking at me, I knew I was about to be hungry for the rest of day. I proceeded with eating the coconut rice and I might be late on that movement as well. The rice was like something I've never experienced before. I called my wife and told her we've been missing out. Anyway, back to this fish that looked like it was caught 3 hours ago, that is how fresh the food was. I could tell the woman put in a lot of time and effort to season and prepare the food for us, but my resolve only goes so far. Freddy asked me why I wasn't eating and tried to explain to him that seafood is not my cup of tea. He said he can have her cook something else for me, which made me feel horrible. Here this woman I've never met cooked for us and invited us into her home, and I was acting ungrateful. She didn't speak English, but visually she knew I wasn't going to eat it. She told Freddy she could fry some chicken for me if I liked.
I tried to deny the request out of respect, but she insisted on feeding me. After 2 minutes of debating, I gave in. When that chicken came out golden brown, let me tell you it was nicely seasoned, moist and fried just right. I was very pleased with the outcome and tried to help with the dishes, but that was a no go. I completely understand, we're guest. We ended this special event with a local alcoholic beverage and took pictures to remember this moment. The overall experience touched me in a way I haven't felt in a long time.