1. “Donde come uno comen tres.” Or: Where one eats, eat three.
We have so many shared Colombian sayings like this one that are centered around food. Another example: ‘Échele agua a la sopa,’ which translates to: ‘pour water into the soup.’ These sayings are meant to show the hospitality of Colombians, reflected through food. Even when guests are not expected to come in for lunch or dinner, they are always welcome and there will be enough food for both family and visitors.
2. Guests should always bring doggy bags.
Whether it’s for a special occasion or just a simple invitation to dinner, Colombians normally cook enough food for their guests, plus a little more just in case. There are frequently leftovers for guests to take away. Colombian hosts will probably use typical phrases to encourage guests to take some of these leftovers home. We’ll ask things like: “Would you like to take some to your parents?” “Parents” in this cases, applies to husband, wife, children, siblings, roommates, etc. If you still resist, we’ll remind you that you need to eat lunch tomorrow, or you should at least bring home some cake, wrapped in foil.
Believe me: I have ended up eating pork leg and turkey for a whole week after Christmas Eve. Accepting the doggy bag is just a matter of courtesy.
3. Visitors are expected to eat their entire meal.
When Colombians invite people home to have lunch or dinner, they are expected to eat everything. If there are leftovers on the plate, traditional families will usually see this as a lack of respect and they’ll think that their guests didn’t like the food. As if that were not enough, when the plate is empty, visitors will be offered a second helping. We Colombians are very good at pushing when it comes to food or drinks with expressions like “¿no le gustó?” – Didn’t you like it? “¿Seguro no quiere repetir? vea que hay mucha comida”– Are you sure you don’t want more? There is a lot of food or “Sólo un poquito más, eso no le hace daño”– Just a little bit more, that doesn’t hurt you. In Colombia, light eaters should be prepared to overfill their stomachs.
4. We love it when tourists try the most authentic and weirdest foods.
We enjoy taking tourists to taste the most authentic Colombian food. But to be fair, some of the dishes might look quite peculiar to foreigners. We will proudly show you the lechona – pork stuffed with its own meat, rice, yellow peas, seasoning and its crunchy skin on top. The taste is delicious, but it becomes weird when you see the whole pork, including the cooked head of the animal, displayed on a big tray.
Another typical, but not so healthy food is the fritanga – a pretty big dish, usually to share with others, which includes morcilla (black sausage filled with rice, peas and fresh pork blood), chorizo (seasoned sausage), corn cob, plantain, chicharrón (fried pork rind), small and yellow typical potatoes called papas criollas, ribs, chicken, chunchullo (fried beef small intestine) and of course arepa (cornmeal flatbread). It is probably one of the greasiest dishes in the country, but great flavored.
It can get even stranger if we move north of the country, to the Santander department, where tourists can try the emblematic hormigas culonas (literally big butt ants). The look of these toasted ants might not be for everyone but the flavor is peanut-like and salty. Trust me; all these dishes taste much better than they appear.
5. Colombian food remains as diverse as the country itself.
There’s no such thing like a traditional Colombian dish. The country offers a wide culinary variety that can be discovered in each single region. Starting with the capital, Bogotá and its surroundings, one of the main dishes is the Ajiaco – soup made with three kinds of potatoes, chicken, a special herb called guascas, corn cob and a bit of cream on top. Moving further north to the department of Antioquia and the Coffee Region, we find the distinctive bandeja paisa (red beans, rice, fried eggs, chorizo, arepa, shredded beef, avocado, plantain, and chicharrón all served on a single plate). A delicious sancocho de gallina – chicken soup can be eaten in Cali and the department of Valle del Cauca. On the Caribbean coast, the flavors are also diverse. From arroz de coco (coconut rice) with fried fish to arepa de huevo, cooked with maize flour and a fried egg inside. These are just some examples, but Colombian gastronomy is so diverse that even fruits and arepas vary from one region to another. Follow the advice of locals and try as much as the country has to offer.
6. Seriously. We have a food-related saying for everything.
Some of the most common slang expressions in Colombia involve some kind of food, even if the meaning has nothing to do with it.
“Cada tiesto con su arepa.” – each pot with its arepa – referring to a person whose partner fits perfectly into their lives, and who shares similar likes, dislikes, beliefs, etc.
“Al que no le gusta el caldo se le dan dos tazas.” – The one who does not like broth is given two cups. If someone worries too much or is displeased about something and he/she has to deal with it over and over again.
“No dé papaya.” – Do not give papaya or do not put yourself at risk. Also used when someone is put into a position where others can mock him.
“¿Quién pidió pollo?” – Who ordered chicken? – referring to someone very good looking who approaches.
“Uy, pero se toma la sopita.” – Oh, but he/she drinks the soup – referring to someone who is overweight.