Hallacanomy 2021 | Chronicles of Caracas
People talk about two Venezuela. Two totally different social and economic realities sharing the same territory. The rich and the poor. The malnourished and obese. The civilian and the barbarian. The Saudi and the North Korean.
From my perspective, after doing research for this piece, there are more than two Venezuela’s, spread along the gray spectrum between black and white politicians insist on showing us.
It’s easy to see these shades of gray in the economy of the hallaca, the most representative Venezuelan Christmas dish, as 2021 draws to a close. The star of the Christmas dinner will cost this year 1000% more than it cost in bolivars in 2020, which is much more than the annual inflation just declared by the Central Bank at the end of November (769%) and the expected result eight years of recession, four of hyperinflation and an industry 80% less productive than it was in 2013.
Of course, the hallacas remind me of another Christmas without my children, who left the country, and without a lot of friends and family that I miss. Of the nearly 100 extended family members I saw around Christmas twenty years ago, 47 are scattered across three continents. We never shared the same table again.
But I’d better wipe that tear away and focus on the numbers.
A dollar if it’s homemade
If you buy the ingredients to make 50 hallacas, the bill can vary widely depending on the location. The range is $ 36- $ 70, that is, each hallaca can cost you anywhere from 70 cents to a dollar and 40 cents.
You can pay up to $ 70 in some supermarkets and bodegones in Caracas, such as Unicasa, Excelsior Gama, Plaza, Bicentenario, Central Madeirense or La Muralla; but you can buy the same things for under $ 60 in public markets like Quinta Crespo, Guaicaipuro, El Cementerio, or Chacao.
Among the ingredients we are considering here (corn flour, olives, raisins, capers, leek, chicken, pork, beef, tomato, onion, green onion, garlic, bell pepper, annatto, plantain leaves, oil, pickles, red pepper , white kitchen string… and no almonds) there are significant differences. Plantain leaves can cost $ 2 to $ 3.50 per kilogram; olives from $ 2 to $ 5, beef from $ 3.5 to $ 9, and capers from $ 3 to 5.5.
We have also seen price variations in the entire Christmas plate. In downtown Caracas, you can get a plate with a hallaca, pernil (roast pork), and chicken salad for $ 3. But nearby, at a restaurant in La Candelaria, you could end up paying up to $ 20 for the same trio.
At Pollos Hermanos Riviera you would pay $ 7 per plate including hallaca, chicken salad and pan de jamón, or $ 10 if you wanted to add a piece of pernil. If you want to aim for the sky, you can have your Christmas plate at Alto in Los Palos Grandes ($ 35), La Castañuela in Las Mercedes ($ 29), and Moreno in Altamira ($ 28). That’s about eleven times the price of the combo in downtown Caracas.
The mid-range could be Casa Bermeo in La Candelaria or Dolce Vita in Altamira: 10 – 15 dollars.
Criolla with a hint of exotic autocracies
Arturo Uslar Pietri wrote that hallaca was a testament to our melting pot: “the corn and plantain leaf of the Indians, the raisins and olives of the Romans and Greeks, the caper and almonds of the Arabs, the beef of the captains of Castile. “
This concept proposed by Uslar Pietri becomes even more real this year, with so many ingredients imported by international allies of Chavismo – without tariffs or taxes – after the cancellation of the Venezuelan production. Now hallaca is not only built with local ingredients and products from Spain, Italy, USA and Portugal, but also Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina and other places favorable to Maduro.
For example, the Third Secretary of the Turkish Embassy in Venezuela, Hüseyin Özen, Recount Anadolu news agency that Venezuelan chocolate factory Zisnella has been importing olives and hazelnuts from Turkey at least since 2017.
Traditional local brands of corn or canola oil such as Vatel, Mazeite and Mary compete not only with Gallo, Carbonell, Colavita, Olitalia, Wesson and Kirkland olive oil from Spain, Italy and the United States, but also with the Ukrainian Olyan. or Kaldini from Argentina. The same goes for the pickles produced by Nina: they have to compete with Eureka, Fragata, La Giralda and Krinos, from Europe, but also the Turkish Sibas and Tukas.
Regarding flour, the main ingredient of hallaca, you can find here corn flour and wheat flour from Latin America, the Middle East and the former Soviet republics, at the same price as that produced in Venezuela, or less expensive. So we can not exclude that some hallacas this year use these marks instead of the typical marriage of Harina Pan and annatto from Polar (onoto).
What about the other Christmas stuff?
The long tradition of installing a Christmas tree in a tropical country opens the door to madness. You can buy “Canadian pines” in downtown Caracas for between $ 75 and $ 500. But if you’re ready for the Bodegonia Christmas experience, you can get a designer decorated pine tree for $ 3,500 east of Caracas.
The best prices for the loved one ham pan (Christmas ham rolled bread) is usually found in families selling their own homemade creations, starting at $ 6 per 35cm, while in restaurants it can go up to $ 25.
Finally, if you want to say goodbye to 2021 by hopping on one foot and eating a grape every time the bell rings at 12 p.m., the kilogram of grapes goes from $ 3 in the open market in Catia or Quinta Crespo to $ 15 in Baruta. , El Hatillo, Libertador and Chacao.