Upon my return to Medellin last month, Viviana invited me to a Sunday frijolada at her grandmother’s house.
What’s a frijolada, I hear you ask?
Essentially, it’s a big family cookout, including beans (los frijoles).
Last Sunday afternoon, I met up with her and we walked over to her grandmother’s house together, where a block away, her mother also runs a restaurant.
Walk through the neighborhood, and you’re more likely to be walking on the street than the sidewalk.
It’s full of life in a way you don’t see around Poblado, where neighbors rarely see or talk to each other within their high-rise apartments.
Viviana’s grandmother has spent her entire life growing up on a particular corner.
Along the way, her family, daughters, sons, and grandchildren, have made their own homes around her.
Every Sunday, the family gathers around the grandmother’s house. It’s tradition.
But the frijoladas are a special occasion, most often occurring in the midst of long weekends, or before holidays.
When we reached her grandmother’s house, kids were playing in two small plastic pools, as well as in the streets.
I was a little worried for their safety, but as the hours passed, I noticed the traffic was light, mostly motorbikes, and the drivers politely slowed down when approaching the intersection.
Viviana’s mom took the lead on cooking for the entire extended family. I was anxious to sample her chicharron.
I’m not normally a fan of the deep-fried pork fat Colombians hold so dearly, but Viviana assured me her mother cooked it better than anyone.
I mentioned the large size of the pot holding beans over the open fire, and Viviana responded by saying the larger the pot, the better the flavor, plus cooking outside allows more food to be cooked at once.
I observed a steady rotation of aunts and uncles flaming the wood fire beneath the pots over the course of several hours.
Kids played jump rope, while several of the men set up a TV across the street, with an extension cord running from the house, in order to watch the finals of Confederation’s Cup between Brazil and Spain (Brazil won 3-0).
One of Viviana’s good friends, also named Viviana, joined us as well.
As dusk arrived, the various elements of the frijolada were coming together.
I’d mentioned to Viviana early on that I was hungry, and she therefore ensured I was the first to be fed.
My plate consisted of a healthy dose of beans, mixed with some vegetables, rice, chicharron, fresh avocado, a fried egg, and sweet plantain.
I gobbled it up without hesitation. And to her mom’s credit, the chicharron was the best I’ve had.
Unlike the typical version, it didn’t taste like I was gnawing on pure animal fat, there was a decent amount of meat in there too.
After dinner, we returned to our seats outside. The pools had been drained, the water swept off the streets.
Out of nowhere, a jeep dressed up like a caterpillar came down the road, passing through our little party.
Viviana explained it’s a ride for the kids in the neighborhood, but that she didn’t like it because nobody took responsibility in the event of an accident.
And let’s face it, from the photo above this contraption looks like an accident waiting to happen.
By nightfall, the caterpillar had made several loops around the neighborhood, this time with reggaeton music. It was training for when the kids take to chiva party buses as adults.
My fondest memories of Medellin involve family, specifically other people’s families inviting me into their homes and lives, to partake in traditions and celebrations.
Like celebrating this past New Year’s Eve in San Javier, food is always a component, but more importantly, so to is the warm paisa hospitality.
Have you been invited to partake in a paisa family tradition? Share your experience in the Comments below.