You can’t visit San Carlos without meeting Sandra. She’s one of the first friendly faces you see in the town, and always has the time you to speak with you in Spanish. She also sells some of the best Colombian food in Antioquia – perhaps Colombia.
We asked Sandra everything you ever wanted to know about her.
How long have you been in San Carlos?
I’ve been living in San Carlos for twenty years, though I’ve been cooking here for around 15 months.
What makes your food so special? Do you have a secret ‘receta de la abuela’ (grandmother’s recipe)?
My secret ingredient is… care. Some people don’t put any love into their food. Yeah, I use lots of different ingredients; lots of spices. But I don’t have any kind of old-fashioned recipe, passed down from anyone.
What’s your favourite Colombian snack, and non- Colombian meal?
My favourite Colombian snack would have to be ‘torta de carne’ (meat patty). I also love spaghetti – with tomato sauces, onions, peppers, et cetera.
Does it take you long to prepare everything for opening in the evening?
Yes – I’m usually preparing the food from 8am to around 1:30pm, and then I open around 4pm. It really takes a while.
What is the gringos’ favourite snack? Of all the gringos that eat at your stall, which nationality eats the most?
The gringos love the ‘pasteles de pollo’ (chicken patties). However, it often changes. I remember a German girl called Helen who would come every day to eat a ‘torta de lentejas’ (lentil patty). Then there was Liam, Basil, and Hannah – Hannah was a ‘vegetarian’ but they’d both come every day to eat ‘salchichones’. I remember one evening those guys yelling ‘Salchichones! Salchichones! Salchichones!’.
I’ve adopted many of the visitors to Spanish adventure. I have ‘sons’ in India; in Patagonia; in the United States – everywhere. In fact, Andrew from the United States used to visit our home most days, in the evenings, to chat and make food with us.
Do you have any rivals or competition? I’ve noticed some older ladies on a nearby corner that seem to be copying you. Why do you think your stall is the town’s favourite?
Yes, I suppose I have competition. But many people like my stall for, I suppose, various reasons. I have seven different options to choose from – more than anyone else-, and it’s also about the ambience. You can come and sit here in the evening, take a beer and relax. I also like to greet people with a smile and be open to conversation. I especially like to speak to the ‘gringos’ who come here, help them with their Spanish, and watch them progress.