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OK. I admit it. I’m addicted.
For over a year, I thought I had it under control. The discipline and routine that a full-time job gave me saw my dependence on this reduce dramatically.
However, then came the double hit. The first was self-inflicted: resigning from said gainful employment. That was followed shortly by coronavirus and the resultant quasi-lockdown.
Crossing the line
In my bid to maintain some sort of routine in such uncertain times I once again found myself drifting, nay motoring at top speed, back to this old daily comfort. For sure, it’s as Colombian (although, not exclusively so) as coffee — indeed the two work well together — yet for some locals, the mere utterance of its name brings forth utter revulsion. ‘Is that all this country means to you these days? You disgust me.’
Of course, it’s not the only thing that I enjoy — if “enjoy” is the right word to use here — about Colombia, but I’ve only ever had it in this country. And no, I didn’t come here specifically for it.
In fact, and you may not believe this, but I’d never heard of it before relocating to this part of the world. I first tried it out of pure, innocent curiosity. Unlike other “firsts”, I don’t fully remember where I was introduced to it. I think it may have been in one of my original local haunts in the La Perseverancia neighbourhood, although I can’t say with any certainty.
What I do know is that it became much more of a habit when I moved to the northern reaches of Bogotá and started socialising in Barrio Santandercito. In one particular establishment, it was especially popular and readily available, at a very reasonable price.
You could have it on the premises — no questions asked, no one would take any notice bar the odd incredulous look if you were overindulging — or take it home to have later. I preferred to have it there and then, it’s just not the same doing it at home alone.
That Santandercito outlet has since changed hands and the new administrators no longer sell it — they told me, rather surprisingly, that the profit margins were quite small compared to other, more “mainstream” products that require less preparation time.
‘It gives me a kick at the moment of consumption but I do feel guilty, even a little shame, afterwards.’
Nonetheless, you generally don’t have to go far in Bogotá to find another place where you can get it. My current dealer is based in Barrio Nueva Zelandia. It’s a little pricier here compared to what it used to be in Santandercito, but you get a slightly bigger offering.
Ideally, it’d be best sold by weight as at times you think you’ve been handed a big one but once you start consuming it you realise there’s a lot of air in it. It still goes down well all the same.
Perhaps some bigger operators sell it — if they have it at all that is — by weight, I’m not sure. Truth is, I’ve never looked for it in such places, I prefer to deal with independent, family-run providers.
Snorting like a pig
I’ve been trying to cut down on the amount I have these last couple of weeks but it hasn’t been easy. I mean I don’t even have to ask for it now, it’s just handed to me. When I say I don’t want that much, those selling it to me typically say, ‘Sure go on, it’ll do you no harm. Get it into you.’
Thing is, with the doses I’m consuming, I’m pretty sure it is doing me harm.
If I could get out of Bogotá for a few days, I would at least get a break from it. Out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. But, of course, with the measures in place to combat the spread of coronavirus, I can’t leave the city.
For sure, I get a kick at the moment of consumption but I do feel guilty, even a little shame, afterwards.
Another pull factor is that in its purer form it’s not actually that bad — studies even suggest it can be good for our health (see item number eight on this list). How I take it, though, it’s mixed with stuff that is, to say the least, not great for one’s body.
It is said the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. I’m crossing that hurdle.
I won’t let pan chicharrón (for the ignorant amongst us, this is basically bread filled with pork scratchings — or pork cracklings as some may call it — best served straight out of the oven) control me. I shall control it. There is a way.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.