The city 0f Popayan, in Colombia’s southwestern Cauca department, is getting ready to kick off its 10th annual gastronomic congress running from September 5 – 8.Popayan, which is the only city in Latin America to be recognized by UNESCO as a world City of Gastronomy, is famous for its mestizaje cuisine – a gastronomic fusion of Spanish, African, and Indigenous foods.
While mestizaje cuisine includes many Colombian staples, such as potatoes, corn, and meats, it also has some uniquely Spanish/European influences that are rarely found in the rest of the country – for example, the use of the herb mint, which is not commonly seen in other parts of Colombia.
Since the congress’ start in 2003, it has been a custom to invite one other country and one other Colombian department to come and showcase their own national or regional cuisine alongside the Popayan festivities – this year the guests of honor are the country of Ecuador and the Magdalena department.
As well as inviting gastronomic guests, the festival hosts one “star ingredient” each year. For the tenth celebration, the highly versatile grain quinoa will take center stage. An important staple of the Andean part of the Inca Empire, it is also a popular alternative to rice. Quinoa can be used in soups, as cereal or it can even be roasted and ground into flour to make bread.
El producto protagonista del XI Congreso Gastronómico de Popayán este año, es la Quinua (del quechua kinúwa o kínua).
— Gastronómico Popayán (@gastronomicopop) June 28, 2013
The Gastronomic Congress in Popayan is an event that sees thousands of visitors every year. As a festival in a world-recognized “city of food,” it is unique not only to Colombia, but South America – be sure not to miss out.