Introducing Arepas on Wheels: Family Brings Venezuelan Food to Charlottesville
With more than 200 countries in the world, each with their own diverse cuisines, a city Charlottesville’s size could never begin to scratch the surface of them all. But, one by one, our food scene continues to expand, offering more cuisines than ever before. The latest addition is Venezuelan, brought here by a family still passionate about the food of their native land.
Arepas on Wheels, a traveling trailer serving arepas and other Venezuelan specialties, launches next week. When the Salazar-Gil family arrived in Virginia in 2016, they began sharing their food with friends and family. Feedback was so positive that they decided to turn it into a business. With Arepas on Wheels, Maria, her husband Fernando, and daughters Mafer and Ana are “wishing for the beautiful Venezuelan cuisine to be known around central Virginia,” said Maria.
The focus are arepas. What’s an arepa? It’s the iconic dish of Venezuela, often enjoyed at least once a day, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Many Venezuelans don’t even need a recipe. They know just how the dough should feel after combining warm water, salt, and precooked corn flour (such as Harina P.A.N.). From there, the dough is formed into a small ball, flattened into a circle, and cooked on a griddle until crispy on the outside with a soft and light interior. You can enjoy it as you wish, but Venezuelans tend to keep it simple – sliced open, and topped with margarine and cheese. In recent years, though, more elaborate fillings have become popular, like chicken salad or shredded beef.
The arepa is so beloved that decades ago, when a woman launched a family business selling arepas from a trailer in Queens, NY, she became one of the first food sensations of the internet. People called her The Arepa Lady. Her real name? Maria.