A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 28, 2007
Arepa ("Arepa Lady")

An “arepa” is a corn-based bread popular in South American countries such as Colombia and Venezuela. The “Arepa Lady” is the popular vendor of arepas in New York City, celebrated by numerous posts on the New York City food site Chowhound.


Wikipedia: Arepa
The arepa is a corn-based bread from the northern Andes in South America, now spread to other areas in modern Latin American countries. They are most popular in Colombia and Venezuela.

Characteristics
The arepa is a flat cornmeal patty which is grilled, baked, or fried. The characteristics of the arepa vary with local culture. The size and flatness may vary acording to the region. In Eastern Venezuela besides the most common variety of 3 to 5 inches in diameter and half an inch thick, you can find enormous arepas of 8 inches in diameter and two inches thick made with either white or yellow corn, but in the Andean West you may find flat arepas of a quarter of an inch or less and 3 to 4 inches in diameter. It is often eaten as a sandwich, split in half and filled with cheese, deli meats, or other fillings, in which case it is called arepa rellena; it is also sometimes dressed with toppings and eaten open-faced. On the Caribbean coast of South America, the cornmeal cake is often deep-fried and, in one variation, where a raw egg is added midway through the frying process, it becomes the arepa’e huevo. This latter variation was most likely devised by the African slaves near Cartagena de Indias.

Making arepas
There are two ways to make the dough: the original, highly laborious method requires the maize grains to be soaked, then they are peeled and grounded, this is done by pounding the grains in a larger mortar (pilón) to remove the pericarp and the seed germ, only the cotiledons of the maize seed are used to make the dough, this product (mortared maize or “maíz pilado") was normally sold as dry grain which were then boiled and grounded into the dough. The second, easier, and most popular method today is to buy pre-cooked corn in a dry flour form, specially prepared for making arepa and many other maize based dough dishes (hallacas, bollos, tamales, empanadas, chicha, etc.). The most popular brand name of corn flour in Venezuela is Harina Pan, and in Colombia is Areparina; it’s usually made from white corn but there are yellow corn varieties available. This product was developed (invented) by Dr. Caballero Mejias in the 1950s, a Venezuelan engineer who didn’t want to profit from his patent and used its income to finance the Technical Schools system where juveniles would do a technical oriented high school learning a working skill. The precooked form was widely industrialized from there. The flour is mixed with water and salt (some people add oil, eggs and/or milk). After being molded by hand, or in a special template, into a patty, the dough is fried, grilled or baked. This production of maize is unusual for not using the nixtamalization or alkali cooking process to remove the pericarp. Arepa flour is lower in nutritive value than nixtamal with protein value reduced by 50% though protein digestion may be higher.
(...)
Arepa types
Their preparation depends on two main factors: one is the personal taste or preference of each individual; the second is the region in which they are made. The result is a wide variety of arepa types:

Traditional corn arepa
Corn flour arepa (Arepa blanca or Viuda)
Wheat flour arepa (Preñaditas in Venezuelan slang)
Sweet arepa (Arepa dulce)
Cheese arepa (Arepa de queso)
Coconut arepa (Arepa de coco)
Andean arepa (Arepa andina)
Mandioc arepa (Arepa de yuca)
Reina Pepeada - filled with avocado, chicken, potatoes, carrots, and mayonnaise
Baked arepas (Arepas horneadas)
Fried arepas (Arepa frita)
Arepa pelúa - with yellow cheese and pulled beef
Arepa catira - with yellow cheese and chicken
Arepa de chicharrón - arepa with crisped pork skin
Arepa de dominó - white cheese and black beans
Arepa de Perico - made with perico, a Caribbean type of scrambled eggs
Arepa viuda ("widow" arepa) - an empty arepa usually eaten with soup
Other fillings are guacuco (a shellfish), cazón (a kind of small shark), pernil (pork), huevos de codorniz (quail eggs), and octopus.

MySpace.com - Arepa Lady
About me:
The arepalady sets up her cart on Roosevelt avenue between 78th and 79th streets, Jackson Heigths. Queens. always on Fridays and Saturdays. It is safest to show up no earlier than 10pm (she comes out earlier but set up may take longer some days). She is around until 5am. Closest trains E/F/R/7 to 74th Roosevelt ave/ Jackson Heigts station. then walk on Roosevelt to 78th street.

rarely she comes out on sundays but we will post when she does.
more info message or write to: arepaladyathotmaildotcom

Google Books
A Historical and Descriptive Narrative of Twnety Years’ Residence in South America
by William Bennet Stevenson
London: Hurst, Robinson & Co.
Volume One
1825
Pg. 372:
The second kind is made by boiling the grain with the water for several hours, it is then strained and fermented, and is called neto; the residue or sediment found in the bottom of the jars is used in fermenting the dough for bread, which when made of maize is called arepa; and that of wheat, in the Quichua language, tanda.

Google Books
A Visit to Colombia in the Years 1822 & 1823
by William Duane
T. H. Palmer
1826
Pg. 202:
Here we had an excellent chicken stew, some good potatoes, apios, sweet yuccas, and an abundance of eggs, and arepa, or bread of Indian corn, to which keen appetites gave a delicious and enviable flavour;...

Google Books
Memoirs of Simon Bolivar
by H. L. V. Ducoudray Holstein
S. G. Goodrich
1829
Pp. 152-153:
...so that each officer and private, had a scanty ration, consisting of a little cake of indian meal, not weighing two ounces, called arepa, and two small salted fishes, and nothing else! 

Google Books
Campaigns and Cruises, in Venezuela and New Grenada, and in the Pacific Ocean, from 1817 to 1830
in three volumes
("Vowell, Richard Longeville” is handwritten as the author—ed.)
London: Longman and Co.
1831
Volume One
Pg. 465:  NOTE 17, p. 90.
Arepa is the Indian term for bread in general; it is used by the crioles exclusively for maiz cakes. The grain of which these are made, after being pounded in a large wooden mortar by two women, who strike it alternately with majaderos, or heavy pestles, to loosen the husks, is boiled, and suffered to stand all night in the same water. It is then bruised by hand, with a round stone, on a flat slab of granite, laid slanting to let the water run off; and is made into small cakes, which are baked on an earthen plate, without adding leaven or salt. This is considered a very nourishing kind of bread, but is, of course, exceedingly insipid.

Google Books
Select Library for Common School Districts and Social Institutions
Boston: Wm. B. Fowle & Nahum Capen
1842
The Travels and Researches of Alexander Von Humboldt
Pg. 330:
Numerous varieties of food are derived from this plant. (Maize—ed.) The ear is eaten raw or boiled. The grain when beaten affords a nutritive bread called arepa, and the meal is employed in making soups or gruels, which are mixed with sugar, honey, and sometimes even pounded potatoes.

Google Books
Travels and Adventures in South and Central America
First Series; Life in the Llanos of Venezuela
by Don Ramon Paez
New York: Charles Scribner & Co.
1868
Pg. 35:
Indian corn we had in abundance, both in the grain and in the husk; but before it could be converted into arepas—the favorite bread of the country—it required to be passed through a variety of operations each day, which made the process rather tedious, as the grain must first be hulled by pounding it in large wooden mortars, adding a handful of sand and a little water; next the grain must be separated from the chaff, thoroughly washed, and then boiled over a slow fire.

Google Books
Walking North from Patagonia:
Being the Narrative of a Journey, Earned on the Way, Through Southern and Eastern South America
by Harry A. Franck
New York, NY: The Century Co.
1921
Pg. 631 (The Trackless Llanos of Venezuela):
Eggs were three for five cents; a large corn biscuit, or pan de arepa, was one cent;...

New York Times
Street Corner Cooks Have Names, Too
By DANA BOWEN
Published: September 22, 2004

HER name is Maria Piedad Cano, but friends call her Piedad.

“There are so many Marias where I’m from,” she said, chuckling, as she slathered margarine over Colombian corncakes sizzling on a propane-powered griddle.

It was 10:45 p.m., and the Friday night bar crowd on Roosevelt Avenue hovered hungrily around her sidewalk kitchen. An hour earlier she had dragged her batterie de cuisine — condiment bottles, coolers, cast-iron grills and all — out of a Jackson Heights garage and set up shop under the elevated 7 train on the corner of 79th Street in Queens. Drivers pulled up, waving money and shouting orders, then circled the block until their arepas were ready.

Throughout New York immigrant cooks without the wherewithal to open a restaurant serve quick, cheap and delicious tastes of home from makeshift stands at the curbside.

Some are so good that they have developed wider reputations, particularly among a segment of the culinary cognoscenti for whom the difficulty in finding a meal only adds to its appeal. The vendors’ specialties, and often elusive locations, are posted on Internet message boards and confidentially circulated among friends by e-mail.

Unlike the celebrated chefs in New York’s more fashionable neighborhoods, whose every career moves and garnish choices are subjects of discussion, these men and women labor without publicists, with little English and often without the documents needed to live in this country or sell food in this city. Yet they have become known in a corner of the food world for dishes they’ve distinguished: souse stew from the Caribbean, Oaxacan tamales, Brazilian rissole turnovers and other traditional recipes.

Ms. Cano is known to many as the Arepa Lady, which amuses her deeply. She didn’t prepare these traditional snacks until 1986, two years after she fled her home in Medellín. She was a judge, she said, and the drug wars made her beautiful town, and her job, too dangerous.

Bridge and Tunnel Club Blog
September 22, 2004
THE AREPA LADY
Jackson Heights’ Arepa Lady is featured in a Times story about “Street Corner Cooks”.

The Arepa Lady is covered obsessively at chowhound.com. Chowhound has a good primer about her which is worth a read:

When people ask me to name my favorite food in New York, I inevitably answer--without hesitation--"arepas from the Arepa Lady”. This saintly woman grills Colombian corn cakes on her street cart weekends after 10:30 pm, and they are magical. I don’t know her name; such knowledge would detract from my appreciation of her as an archetype. While I speak pretty decent Spanish, I’ve never been able to fully follow her conversation, but it doesn’t matter. I go when I’m feeling blue, stand under her umbrella, and feel a healing calm wash over me as she brushes the sizzling corn cakes with butter. Zen master-like in her complete absorption in the task, she grills the things with infinite patience and loving care. Everyone adores the arepa lady. The people on the street treat her with reverence and respect; there’s always a small entourage of hangers-on standing around her cart or sitting on folding chairs. Fast cars and smoke-billowing trucks zoom down the street, the 7 train crashes by overhead, partying Latinos cavort up and down the block, but the arepa lady’s peacefulness absorbs it all, transforms it, and gives back...corn cakes. The arepas themselves are snacks from heaven. Coursely ground corn, fried in pancakes about 6 inches in diameter and an inch thick, slathered with butter and topped with shredded white cheese, they’re brown and crunchy, chewy and a little bit sweet, the butter and cheese imbuing the whole with salty dairy meltiness.

And thanks to the Times, we now know her name—Maria Piedad Cano:...

Village Voice
The Arepa Lady on MySpace
posted: 11:08 AM, April 6, 2007 by Nina Lalli

You know you’ve hit the big-time when someone makes a myspace page for you and tracks your whereabouts for all your fans. The Arepa Lady has definitely reached a new level of fame. Congrats. (She should be on Roosevelt Avenue tonight after 10pm). And thanks, Epifurious.

The Arepa Lady
Fridays and Saturdays, 10pm-5am
Roosevelt Avenue between 78th and 79th Streets
Jackson Heights

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Friday, September 28, 2007 • Permalink