One of the most prominent bearers of Colombia’s gastronomic tradition travels from Nariño to Madrid Fusión to tell his story.
Aníbal Criollo, owner and chef of Naturalia restaurant – Nariño, south of Columbia – will be on the stage of the world’s largest food congress to talk about the chagra, an Andean view of the world based on fertility, socialisation, the transmission of knowledge and ancestral know-hows that generate a spiritual connection between humans and nature.
Aníbal is a Quillasinga (“Moon Nose”), and with his niece Marcela, they concoct dishes brimming with sentiment, local roots and history. “My cooking’s raison d’être is affection. My cooking comes from memories – of abundance and scarcity – and how my mum looked after us. The more need you feel, the more powerful affection is. This is why my cooking is plentiful”.
Aníbal is famous for his trout smoked with alder wood – a genus that protects waterways and does so much good in La Cocha, Columbia’s second largest lake his cooking draws from. The Quillasinga relies on it to tell the story of biodiversity in his region. To him, sustainability – a concept that is making inroads in kitchens around the world – is a way to look at life.
“As a country cook and farmer, I carry on the knowledge of the Andes’ most valuable biocultural heritage: the chagra. The chagra helps us understand the diversity of edible, ritual and medicinal plants and guarantees people’s food self-sufficiency and safety”.
All types of flour – quinoa, amaranth, capia corn, wheat, barley, broad bean, and pea –, wild fruits – such as physalis and chaquilulos (macleania rupestris) – motilon wine (motilon is a type of fruit from the hieronyma macrocarpa plant), trout, guinea pig, smoked creole hen, pork and ribs in motilon sauce and lapingachos – a delicacy made from Andean potato – are just a few of the ingredients Criollo will be working with to tell us about ancestral diversity.
So, how does he imprint his Quillasinga view of the world into his cooking? He grows native seeds, fosters nature by preserving the environment and plants native trees (in the last twenty years, about four million trees – adapted and indigenous – have been planted in the chagra). He has also implemented sylvopastoral systems, in the spirit of the Andean “multiple nurturing” approach that lets the land rest so that it continues to be fertile and productive.
“My cooking is my view of the world and my view of the world is my cooking. My work at Naturalia revolves around solidarity and relies on memory, water nurturing, seed recovery and our women and men’s know-how, the things that help us revive the culture of traditional cuisines and gradually dignify rural labour”.
Madrid Fusión 2021 centres on the need to move towards a more sustainable gastronomy committed to the environment and society. A gastronomy built around the logic of circular economy. And no one is more sustainable than a Quillasinga.