So you have a sweet tooth? Not a problem! Get some arequipe! Arequipe is equivalent to the more commonly circulated name, dulce de leche, in Spain and many other Latin American countries e.g. Argentina. It literally means ‘sweetness of milk’. You can make arequipe at home by stirring milk with sugar under low heat (for hours though, quite laborious). Or, the old trick, chuck your cans of condense milk in a pot of boiling water for 2 hours, then open the can to find a thick toffee-like paste (although from my research I found out that the difference between toffee and dulce de leche is that one’s made from butter and the other’s from milk) that you can use for your banoffee pie. Arequipe’s status in Colombia is like chocolate. It finds its way in everything: bread, cookies, ice-cream, pastries, rice pudding, cheesecakes, and even doughnuts! The list is inexhaustible.
Colombians absolutely love it. They eat everything with it – including cheese and fruits like figs that have already been cooked in sugar (brevas con arequipe), producing a sweet on sweet effect.. So it gets very funny when you start hearing stories of foreigners who are greeted with the exceedingly warm hospitality and welcoming of Colombians who offer up their sweet milk to nourish the foreigners on a cold gloomy day. And the foreigners find themselves gobbling down this thick brown stuff that can stick to your throat, and even worse when they’re meant to eat it in the strangest combination that they’ve ever come across, with fruits and cheese and really almost everything else that they didn’t expect. Worse still when your Colombian friends start starring at you with their hopeful and proud eyes anticipating a smile of surprise from you when you’re supposed to realise how delicious this thing is. Some of my foreign friends have expressed their inability and unwillingness to swallow this sticky sweet matter with cheese for dessert. It’s understandable.