I had the pleasure of meeting Carolina Abolio, the founder of Miss Arepita / Arepa Mobile, when she recently catered a meal for several KQED Science producers. After sampling the array of delicious arepas she prepared for the staff, I wanted to know more about her burgeoning business and these savory Venezuelan flatbreads.
"You really can’t go too far in Venezuela without running into an arepa," said Abolio via email. "They are sold at areperas everywhere throughout the country and given the countless ways it can be prepared, there is really an arepa for everyone."
"The arepa is made of maize flour, grown by the natives in small indigenous villages. It was made from moistened maize, ground between stones to produce pliable dough. Later they were formed into discs and heated to a high temperature on earthenware tiles called "aripos," hence the name. Arepas have always been the traditional breakfast food for most Venezuelan families. They are our "daily bread," as they replace almost completely the use of wheat bread.
Our arepas are handmade, gluten-free, grilled pockets of corn meal that are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. Then they're stuffed with cooked meats, cheeses or sautéed locally grown veggies."
While Abolio doesn't have a professional background in the culinary arts -- she obtained a degree in civil engineering -- "I learned with my family how food created strong bridges between communities. Growing up in Venezuela, in an Italian home, good food was always the central part of our tradition. Everything revolved around the kitchen table which always had warm and delicious treats to offer to everyone who rang the doorbell.