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    Sara Giraldo Maestre holds up the versatile buñuelo. (Sara Giraldo Maestre)Source: Sara Giraldo Maestre
The owner of Melbourne's La Chimosa uses buñuelos (cheese fritters) to help the Colombian community connect in a meaningful way.
By
Sara Giraldo Maestre

7 Dec 2020 - 3:13 PM  UPDATED 7 Dec 2020 - 3:13 PM

I have so many stories to tell that I don't know where to start. Who am I, why do I live in Melbourne, what and who is “La Chismosa”, and most importantly, what is a buñuelo?

Well, my name is Sara Giraldo Maestre and I am from Medellín, Colombia. I remember my childhood surrounded by aromas, flavours and my family laughing and telling stories. The atmosphere was wonderful. Maybe that's why I chose to become a cook and study gastronomy. While my high school classmates wanted to be lawyers or doctors, for me, cooking was a synonym for travel and freedom. Years later, my curiosity to know people's stories led me to study journalism. My mum always told me, "I don't know when, but someday you will combine your two professions" – and here I am!

A year ago, I landed in Australia. After studying English, I decided to create a business with a traditional Colombian product. I was surprised when I discovered the diverse offering of Colombian food in the city. Despite so much variety, I was astonished by the absence of one snack that any Colombian, regardless of their city of origin, would miss: the buñuelo.

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It took me four months to identify the local ingredients that best suited the Colombian recipe to reproduce accurately the authentic taste of this product. Once I made it, my business – “La Chismosa (Chatty Flavours)” – was born.

My bond with the buñuelos? Well, It turns out that a few years ago, life brought me closer to learning about a baking tradition that has been going on for several generations. Grandpa Ramón began selling buñuelos in the 1940s. So La Chismosa's buñuelos are made with a recipe that is 96 years old and, of course, with Grandpa Ramón's secret.

The Colombian buñuelo is a dough made of gluten-free flours and cheese that has a round shape formed with the palms of the hands – gently, like a caress. Then they are deep-fried in hot oil. The result is a perfect sphere, fluffy in the middle with a delicious, crisp and golden shell. The Colombian buñuelos, are savoury and traditionally enjoyed with hot chocolate, coffee or just a soft drink.

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So that is the story of how I ventured to invite Australians to taste some flavours of my home country. Someone told me they were open-minded people in a gastronomic way: they like to try everything and they're always ready for a good dish.

However, the purpose of La Chismosa (which means The Chatty Woman in Spanish) wasn't just to sell buñuelos. La Chismosa also serves to tell the life stories of those Colombians who, like me, dared to travel to this country located on another continent.

So La Chismosa's buñuelos are made with a recipe that is 96 years old and, of course, with Grandpa Ramón's secret.

When I chat with fellow Colombians, I focus on simple issues that concern all migrants. I help them identify with what another compatriot has gone through – and that experience becomes an inspiration.

I have come across beautiful stories. There's the person from Santiago who gets up every morning to work hard with only one thing in mind: to give his mother a house. I also remember David who, with his basic English, mistakenly ordered a jam and cheese pizza. And there's Yeimy, who has cleaned many offices and houses, to pay for her studies and be able to pursue her dream of being an artist.

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Each one of these Colombians reveals something that is true of each one of us. We all know fear, we all have had to be brave and optimistic when everything seemed to be against us. And that is why, between stories and buñuelos, La Chismosa tries to offer a good cup of hot chocolate and a good chat every time we have the opportunity to meet another Colombian in Australia.

So, if one day you want to enjoy some delicious buñuelos or just chat for a while, you now know that La Chismosa lives in Melbourne, is a chatty woman who loves good food, likes all kind of stories and has a crush on Colombian buñuelos!

 

This piece was originally submitted for New Voices On Food, a project dedicated to promoting diverse voices on food.

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Richer. Thicker. And down-right delicious.
Colombian black cake (torta negra Colombiana)

This is Colombia’s version of a rich fruit cake. Dense with prunes, raisins and figs, generously spiked with both rum and port, and cleverly flavoured with aromatic spices, it is hard to stop at one piece. Traditionally dulce quemado (sweet burnt brown sugar), either homemade or bought, is used to sweeten this cake, but molasses makes a perfectly acceptable substitute as I've done in this recipe. 

Colombian vegetable soup (sopa de verduras colombiano)

Despite the tropical weather, in many parts of Colombia soups remain a popular part of the food culture. This recipe for richly flavoured vegetarian soup is quick to prepare and freezes well. Feel free to omit the pureeing stage if you prefer a chunkier soup.