Today, guest author and friend Jeannie Zokan of Gulf Breeze, Florida, brings an international touch to The Gumbo Diaries. Her memories of a native dish hint at the flavor of her first novel, The Existence of Pity. The book is set in Cali, Colombia, and debuts November 14. You can read more by Jeannie at A Writer’s Cup. Welcome Jeannie!
I grew up with our maid making sancocho, a traditional Colombian stew, from leftover chicken, plantains, and lots of yucca. Every time sancocho was on the table, the meal was a special occasion, and I miss the simple goodness it brings back to me. I never thought much about it, though, until I started reading Diane Skelton’s blog about gumbo, and realized sancocho is Colombia’s gumbo.
As with gumbo, anything goes for this soup. Different kinds of meat can be used, as well as any vegetables available, but it’s usually served with rice, and often with a big glass of fruit juice. And like gumbo, it’s made differently depending on the area. In Barrancabermeja three meats are cooked into the stew. In Armenia, pork is the main ingredient. Along the Atlantic coast of Northern Colombia, sancocho is made with fish.
I spent most of my youth in Cali, though, so I made a call to the assisted living facility my parents once lived. The nurse on duty laughed at my questions about sancocho, thought a moment, then told me families often take the ingredients, including the squawking chicken commonly found in a Cali sancocho, on vacation (a popular destination is a local river, maybe Rio Pance?) and the stew is made fresh on the shore. Now that’s a cookout!
Dear friend Victoria Franks, who moved back to her hometown of Armenia, Colombia, sent helpful information and some pictures of sancocho, but you can see hers isn’t served by the river. My mouth is watering and my heart is missing the memories of a time gone by.
Jeannie Zokan’s first novel The Existence of Pity, published by Red Adept Publishing, appears November 14 and will be available on Amazon.