I’m used to freshly squeezed orange juice in the mornings, papaya and pineapple, cheap coffee, and having dinner at 8 pm. And instead of blueberries, tart Isabelita grapes, which are the size of a marble. But being in the US is about gigantic blueberries. It’s about shiny red strawberries that won’t lose their color in the fridge. It’s about seeing aisles with 15 varieties of plant-based milk (like, I didn’t know pea milk was a thing). So I will show you the differences between how Colombians and Americans cook and eat.

The Freshness

I’m certainly not used to the picky eaters in America. I’m picky myself in the sense that I love fresh and organic foods. But seeing people complain because tomatoes weren’t perfectly round and sharp is kind of crazy. That’s partly why food waste is such an important issue around Atlanta. I’m in love with those eye-catching baby carrots grown to perfection, but hey, I also don’t mind giving some love to ugly carrots when I’m cooking.

Sofia Lozano

The Food Itself

Let's start with coffee. Colombian coffee is bitter and aromatic. It has a complex flavor profile. Here, coffee is more for aesthetics than fuel, but there's good coffee if you look for it. You can’t go wrong ordering black coffee from Starbucks or having a medium roast from a local brewery if it's fair-trade and imported from Colombia or Costa Rica.

If you’re looking for Colombian ingredients for your house preparations, go to City Farmer’s Market in the Northeast Plaza. It’s a celebration of Latin American culture, where you can find varieties of plantains, kumquats for Lulada, cassava, large kernel corn, arepas, and even Ajiaco, our typical creamy potato soup. I bought the Ajiaco in a frozen pack, that comes with all the melange of ingredients to make a hearty soup whenever I’m homesick.

Sofia Lozano

The Prices

Some places give you a great bang for your buck. Some others don’t. The price-to-quantity aspect of food in Atlanta is somewhat shocking, especially seeing how expensive supermarkets are relative to my usual grocery shopping at home. Here’s the deal. As of right now, to buy one USD, you need 5.000 COP. When I came to the states as a child, the currency exchange was at 2:1. Now it's 5:1. 

In a nutshell, this means that cost of living is five times higher in the US than it is in Bogotá. For example, an average lunch in the city center back home would’ve cost me the equivalent of 4 USD on average. A fancy lunch could be 10 USD. And the fanciest restaurants have prices of 20 USD. I know, make your calculations. This difference is difficult to put into perspective

Sofia Lozano

The Ingredients

Pop-Tarts for breakfast who? (That was me in a tone of disbelief when I went backpacking a couple of weeks ago). Healthiness is a challenge when added sugar is up in the clouds. Granola bars have up to 15 grams of added sugars. And the worst part? They’re beautifully, impeccably packaged in a way that appeals to us naive consumers as “healthy." Packaged food items are filled with preservatives and flavor agents that I’m kind of afraid of. But that’s fine, people love them, and it’s what they know. To me, the difference from what I see back home is shocking.

Sofia Lozano

International Cuisine

Atlanta has a surprising variety of restaurants from all over the world. For Indian food, I’ve tried Botiwalla and NaanStop. I’ve tried the shrimp and grits from Food Shoppe for Creole cuisine. Desta Ethiopian Kitchen now has two spots, one of them right around the corner from Emory Village. The Thai food here is also good but very spicy, and the places I’ve been to so far don’t have the best ambiance.

Italian restaurants in Atlanta are incredible. I say this because I went to White Bull for a dinner I’ll never forget. Little Rey in Piedmont has good tacos and a great ambiance, and Red Pepper Taquería is better for your budget, maybe for a cool casual lunch with friends. I wouldn’t say Chipotle is the most Mexican, but it works for weekdays. I have yet to try Ponce’s best finds, but I know there’s potential. 

In a nutshell, discovering the mix of American identities through food has been quite the experience. It will take a while for me to discover my go-to's and strike a balance that makes it feel like my home away from home. In the meantime, I'll leave us all with the task of finding good Colombian restaurants! 

Sofia Lozano