December in Medellin is synonymous with natilla and buñuelos. This is the food that has to be at every Christmas gathering, that is exchanged between neighbors and shared with family. Natilla is a type of flan/pudding that has a yummy cinnamon and coconut taste. And buñuelos are fried dough goodness. I have already consumed my fair share of natilla and buñuelos.
Last night, our church family got together to make these traditional treats and share with some Venezuelan families in our community. We got to the church at 5pm to start organizing some of the donations that had come in (clothes, household products, toys) to be gifted. The church slowly filled up and people began making a fire to cook the natilla over, as well as prepare the dough for hojuelas (my all-time favorite), which is like a fried cookie. I learned how to make the dough for hojuelas from my friends Manuel and Maria Jose. Then I helped with the important piece of adding the sugar coating after they are fried (so, so healthy).
It was so fun to see people of all ages working together, laughing, exchanging stories and tips. The kids got involved with all the preparation and enjoyed playing together. During the evening, the Venezuelan families, who have found community and support in the people of this local church, were able to go up and pick out clothes and toys that they wanted for Christmas. There were 11 families present, many of who came with very little and are establishing a new life in Colombia. One of the women was giddy as she picked out a new outfit for her new granddaughter. There were lots of hugs exchanged.
I’m grateful for the tradition of natilla and buñuelos and for the community experience it creates each December. My heart and tummy were full from yummy treats and because of the beautiful city Christmas lights, I didn’t mind the bumper to bumper traffic on our way home at 10pm. I hope you find these moments of community this December, whether it be over cookies or coffee or through serving your neighbors.