A Moment in the Life of Colombian Food Expert Patricia McCausland
Meet Colombian food expert Patricia McCausland-Gallo, a practical Barranquillera, warm, and creative author of two of the most acclaimed books about Colombian cuisine and the usage of coffee as an ingredient: “Secrets of Colombian Cooking” and “Passion for Coffee.”
Hispanic Culture Online talked to Patricia about her work, and included here some of her greatest Colombian food recipes.
HCO: Who is Patricia McCausland and is your last name Colombian?
I am a mix of many places, my mother’s father was from Venezuela, my mother’s mother was from Italy, and my father’s side is Scottish. The McCausland last name is Scottish and Irish. I have the happiness of the Italians, the black humor of the Scottish, but also the customs of “my Costeños,” (how we call the people from the Atlantic coast of Colombia.)
HCO: How did you start in the world of Colombian cooking?
My mother had a bakery at home, and in our house slept twelve women in a back room. They did all the pastry work. My mother did not let my sisters and I enter the kitchen, but I always found a way to get in.
My mom let me help her decorate cakes when I was 13 because she discovered that I was very good at drawing. I wish I had studied cooking, but at the time many parents thought that after graduating from a top high school, being a cook was not an option.
I studied food and nutrition in the U.S., and during my vacation time I accompanied my mom to Paris to take bakery perfecting courses. That is how my love for cooking started, it was always on the sweet side. The savory part started after living alone.
HCO: After all these years you continue with the theme of Colombian cooking, why not something else?
When I arrived in Cali (Colombia), everybody asked me: Why don’t you teach? I decided to do so. I am very practical and I learnt it from processing foods in college, in cafeterias. It thought me how to work in volume and preparation times, fast.
I started to teach how to prepare foods for entertaining, but at the time there was no Carrefour (a French grocery chain), therefore I had to use simple ingredients people could find anywhere.
People used to ask me: where are you? And I would say at the office, which meant at the supermarket trying new ingredients. I needed to be creative and sitting at home was not going to do it. This is how I started to work with Colombian ingredients.
HCO: How did you start writing about Colombian cooking?
When I moved to Panama after selling my business in Colombia. I wanted to write about what I had done and what I knew. I found a publisher to whom I presented several proposals for a book about Caribbean cooking. They told me they liked them but if it was mostly about Colombian cooking.
I spent a year coming and going to several places of Colombia where I shared time with real cooks in several restaurants to create the written recipes that could be made anywhere.
HCO: How did the idea of “Passion for Coffee” come alive?
When I finished the first book in 2004, the publisher started to ask me…where is the coffee? I replied that we did not cook with coffee. I also saw in a magazine information about how many stores Juan Valdez was going to open within the next ten years or so, and my husband suggested to write a book about coffee.
HCO: Which is the role of coffee in Colombian cuisine?
In Colombia we consume coffee in the mornings with milk or black, and that is about it. All the recipes I included in Passion for Coffee are my creations. My idea was to show how coffee can become an ingredient like chocolate and vanilla. I wanted to include coffee in the gastronomy.
When you use coffee in savory foods the taste you obtain is like having cooked the meals on the fire. A taste where you don’t exactly distinguish the flavor of coffee.
HCO: What has happened after Passion for Coffee?
In the past two years I worked for an English publisher on Colombian and Venezuelan cuisines in a series of books about South American cooking . Also, I just finished the Central and South American segment of the coming book Essentials of Latin Cooking for William Sonoma.
I am sure we will be hearing soon from Patricia McCausland. She told Hispanic Culture Online she can’t wait to start traveling to Colombian distant places to do the research for her new project about Colombian food.
Colombian Recipes by Colombian Food Expert!
The majority of the following recipes are from the book Secrets of Colombian Cooking. Hipocrenne Books, INC. Reproduced with Patricia McCausland’s permission. I will be posting the recipes very soon!
Brown Coconut Rice
Crustacean Chowder / Cazuela de Mariscos
Amazon and Oriental Plains
Chimichurri Herb Sauce