The road curved and wove through the mountains as we left Medellin behind. The van swayed with each turn, and the driver pursued our arrival in Armenia with a relentless foot on the pedal. The views were lush, green, and speckled with palmas and rolling hills. I vomited the entire time.
The afternoon before we departed for Salento in Colombia’s cafetero region, my visiting friend, Seleste, and I struck out on the town for a traditional lunch. Mondongo, my roommates insisted, was a must-try for any tourist in Colombia. It’s a sopa tipica made with peppers, carrots, onion, cilantro, and tripe, which is meat from the stomach of a cow. We found a small table in the back of Ajiacos y Mondongos in Poblado. I’d read that Anthony Bourdain ate there on one of his many visits to Colombia. So, obviously, if you’re going to be a tourist in your new city, you might as well follow this guy’s lead. The tiny restaurant—with its warm yellow walls and pitchers of fresh guava juice right outside of the kitchen—was packed with locals on their lunch break.
I ordered a vegetarian-ized bowl of a bean soup similar to a cazuela. With slices of banana, cilantro, and a spoonful of picante, it offered a subtle spice and a comforting, filling meal—like diving into a deep dish of chili on the couch at my parents’ home on a Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, I tasted this cozy soup again the next morning on the bus, for a consecutive five hours. But! These are the expected side effects of travel. You’ve got to know what you’re getting yourself into.
After another stomach episode following a late-night arepa binge (stuffed with huevos revueltos, cheese, and mushrooms), street food and I went on a break. We haven’t totally divorced, but I’m definitely more cautious of these flat top-fried friends’ intentions. Unfortunately, it took a visit to the emergency room for me to learn when to say no, gracias to this new national diet. That’s also when I realized that I hadn’t renewed my travel health insurance, but we can’t be on top of everything at once, right? After all, I haven’t yet claimed to be fully adult.
Although simply feeding oneself can be a task in of itself, there’s nothing quite like cooking at home, wherever that may be. My shared apartment’s kitchen eternally remains the central hub of the eight locals with whom I live. Sometimes I struggle to cook rehydrated beans over our one functioning burner at 10:30 at night, intending to make my own version of the restaurant’s bean soup that I enjoyed the first time around. But at the very least, I can count on a stomach that has mostly resolved its attitude problems, along with snippets of interesting late-night conversation.