My Colombian Cocina: An Interview with Nohora Smith

“The art of the cuisine, when fully mastered, is the one human capability of which only good things can be said.” Friedrich Durrenmatt

Let’s face it. No matter how hard we try we will never be able to change everyone’s mind about Colombia. There will always be people who find something negative about it. It could be its government, trade policy, stance on Venezuela, etc.; the list can go on. Personally, I’m apathetic to politics. I’ve never really cared for them. But one thing I’ve always taken a great deal of interest in is food. This is one aspect of Colombia that only good things can be said, and you if you don’t believe me just try it. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

I believe that eating and drinking are perhaps the most important activities in any social group and will make a big part of who we are, regardless of where we live. A perfect example is Nohora Smith, a Colombian expat residing in the UK and founder of My Colombian Cocina. I was fortunate to be introduced to Nohora by Margarita Echeverry, one of the directors of Redes Colombia. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to interview her for my last post series on Colombia. After all, apart from Colombian music and football, the only other element that furnishes Colombian culture in the UK is food. Sancocho has become popular in mainstream London and to an extent British culture.[1]

20130726-155243.jpgNohora, thank you for taking the time for this interview.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and about My Colombian Cocina?

I was born in Bogotá, Colombia. My family and I have lived in Canterbury, England for the last eleven years. I am an architect, a homemaker, lover of cooking and of autochthonous fruits from Latin America. Ever since I arrived to the UK I have tried to look for and adapt many of the ingredients to our traditional dishes. My first intention was to help some of my friends find Colombian products and recipes, especially since reading my family recipes in books or the internet is not the same thing as actually trying the recipes with the products that one can find in the UK.

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What are some of your earliest memories of Colombia?

I remember Colombia with a scent left impregnated in my memory and in my soul. Colombia is the Caribbean and mountains. Colombia is hot and cold temperatures both in the same region; long days full of light others with lots of rain. From outings to the park or sitting on the couch with a cup of agua de panela (panela water) in your hands. It’s all part of our folklore, and the memories of those who have left it in search of new horizons, but always with the hope of returning and being able to sit in a hammock and enjoy the breeze of flowers and the rustling of birds.

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A Journey To Colombia Documentary Interview

Where are you from?

As immigrants or children of immigrants living in a multicultural society it’s improbable not to be asked this question at least once in your life. For Luis Eduardo Villamizar – being a first generation American born to Colombian parents – this was a question he could not escape, and ironically the time came when Luis would ask himself the same question: Where do I come from?

I am of the opinion that we, as human beings have a basic drive to discover who we are, where we come from, and what our purpose in life is. This prevailing tendency is what inspired Luis Eduardo Villamizar to explore his lineage, heritage, and family history through his upcoming documentary titled A Journey to Colombia.

It’s my pleasure to be able to talk to Luis Eduardo Villamizar about his forthcoming documentary A Journey to Colombia, a provocative documentary that is due to inspire, muster and unite us to see ourselves and our heritage with a different set of glasses.

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Who is Luis Eduardo Villamizar?

I would say I’m just an ordinary guy who’s into films, 80’s music, tech stuff and trying to be a better man. Besides that, a dreamer, a romantic, somewhat jack of all trades and director-writer-producer of an upcoming documentary film titled A Journey to Colombia.

Why did you choose film as your means of communicating your message?

To quote a great line, “From my way of thinking, motion pictures are potentially the most influential form of communication ever invented. And there’s no control over it. Your message reaches everyone, everywhere.” I think this documentary will capture the essence of my journey and can make an impact into changing people’s perceptive about Colombia and Colombian people.

What was the defining moment that made you realized you had to embark on this journey?

I won’t really say it was one defining moment, more like two with six months in between. The first was at my surprise 40th birthday party with family and friends. The other was connecting with my cousin Orlando and working on a short film project with him and figuring out what would be our next project. The only positive thing in my life during that time was my family. Acknowledging the importance of my family made me realize how much I really didn’t know about my Colombian heritage.

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What didn’t you know when you started this journey that you now know?

There is a lot of family history and stories that I’ve found by speaking with my dad’s side of the family during this year of research and pre-production. Most of that I can’t say now as it will be in the film but in general there is a lot I didn’t know both about my family and Colombia. For one thing, I didn’t know how large the country is.

In early May, German journalist Ralf Schuler from the Bild Zeitung referred to Bogotá as the most dangerous city in the world. How do you respond to this?

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