I have been by this joint, Caracas Arepas Bar in NYC – I took this barely adequate snapshot – but I have not been inside, nor eaten their fare. Headed back from Porchetta on E. 7th and staggering with satisfaction, Caracas Arepa Bar rose up behind the line of parked cars and I snapped it for future reference.
Arepas are close cousins to sandwiches, and they are something I have only eaten in my own kitchen. Other than that, my sole arepa experience is the smell of them wafting onto the street in the East Village. Next time we will approach this street from the Caracas end, rather than the Porchetta end, although I may have to eat twice.
Mike, of ComicsDC, turned me on to this arepas tale penned by one of my favorite food writers, Jonathan Kauffman, who most certainly does not need a recommendation from little young me.
A South American sandwich full of flavor, or just plain full.
By Jonathan Kauffman
Wednesday, Jul 7 2010
In the taxonomy of sandwiches — the grinders and the pita pockets, the panini and the smørrebrød — there is one commonality that separates the sandwich from all other classes in the handheld food phylum: the bread. The Venezuelan arepa thus ends up in limbo. A thick, soft corn cake, split like an English muffin and filled with almost anything, including cheese and vegetables, the arepa is the platypus of handheld foods — belonging to both the sandwich and the tortilla-pupusa classes.
Mr. Pollo, an Ecuadoran-Columbian arepas shop in San Francisco, is run by Mr. Angelo Vaca. I am already more than warm to the place purely because it has a Ecuadoran connection with a man named Vaca. In my mind, after a recent “appliance technician” experience, I am forever bound in spirit to a Mr. Vaca from Ecuador. My Mr. Vaca, Mr. Jofre Vaca, Fridgeman and Natural Healer.
Up early. Open the fridge door and it feels…funny…tepid. Is it me or is it the fridge? Press my palm to the shelf for that cool impress and…nope…room temp, July room temp, like a warm swimming pool.
Sent a 7 am email and got an immediate response! The fridge guy could touch down later the same day in the two-hour window that suited me. Suited ME! Two prime hours when we could convene. A remarkably well-timed rendez vous.
He was an apparition, remarkably unremarkable in appearance, although surrounded by an aura of calm and capability. “I will need a large bowl,” he said. “And now a small plastic bag. And a large towel.”
Before too long the diagnosis was done. “Your refrigerator’s computer needs a part.” Computer?? Since when do fridges need computers?
“I can only be home on Saturday,” I said.
“I will be here on Saturday,” replied my angel of mercy.
Saturday?? O. Kay. You work on a day that is convenient for your customers? Really?? Bathe me in your aura. Blanket me in your vibe. Take me to your planet.
This man was no ordinary appliance repair guy. Oh no, he was so much more – not that repairing appliances is anything at which to sniff. He was…whoooosh, drum roll, rustle of angel wings…a fridgeopath. Sent to me from on high. Via four years of training in natural medicine in Ecuador. I know because he told me. I must have looked receptive. And desperate.
“Do you have someone to take care of you?”
“Then you must take care of yourself,” he replied. “I studied natural medicine for four years in Ecuador. Let me see your hands.”
He examined the backs of my hands thoughtfully, stroking the lines of the veins professionally. This was a man with a nurturing fridgeside manner. My mind went empty, ready to absorb his wisdom.
“You need more massages.”
“I will take that as free license,” I answered.
“How do you sleep?” he asked with a knowing look in his eye. His answer was in my expression. “Drink linden tea. Tap the front of your shoulders like this, for better breathing.” He demonstrated on himself. Tap, tap, tap. My head lolled in relaxation just watching him.
I took Jofre Vaca’s advice to heart and to head, and into the hands of Silvia for reiki and massage. And I tapped – in the car, standing at the stove, lying in bed. Linden tea looks and smells like the flowers it is. Nice, like flowers. Like flowers at rest. I slept the sleep one sleeps when refrigerated.
Saturday arrived, Mr. Vaca arrived, just as promised, on the dot, computer part in hand. So he said. I did not see it, nor did I look. The proof was in the coldness of the glass shelf on my palm.
“You look much better,” he said, taking notice of my hands.
“I think the dishwasher will be on the fritz next week,” thought I.