A Dominican colmado is a neighborhood store, but it is also a place to socialize, meet your neighbors, pick from an enormous array of products, have a beer, and much more.
Why we ❤️ it
You know what you’re making for supper. You stopped at the grocery store on your way home from work and picked up the necessary ingredients. You’ve diced your onion, your oil is a-heating.
The recipe calls for mashed garlic. Your pilón is ready… where in Mike Mercedes' name is the garlic?!
You’re out of garlic, remember? You used the last dientes of it in that sancocho. ___! (Insert your choice of swear word here).
Now, if you were in El Seybo or San Juan de la Maguana, you’d just take a few steps outside your very front door, choosing from possibly 5 or 6 different colmados (Dominican neighborhood shops) to make your purchase. (Or even better, you’d send someone else to run and get it - the chef wields a lot of authority in the Dominican kitchen.) And not only could you have your garlic almost instantaneously, but you could buy just ONE diente de ajo, if you so chose.
No bulk mentality here, almost everything is available in the most minute quantities. 3 pesos of oil? 2 pesos of salsa? "Lo que tu quieras, mi amor". Flour, sugar, and rice by the fraction of the pound? "No hay ningún problema".
Although these phenomena are necessitated by the fact that electricity is iffy (and therefore refrigeration uncertain) and that most budgets don’t allow for people to plan too far in advance, it makes one realize how "convenience stores" in North America are not so aptly named. "Colmado", on the other hand, is no misnomer; it implies abundance, heaping spoonfuls, and so much more.
Colmado, daDiccionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language
1. adj. Abundante, copioso, completo (Abundant, copious, complete [our translation]).
I would love to see the look on the face of my corner store cashier, if I were to buy some salami, cheese, and bread and assemble myself a sandwich right there on his counter, and proceed to devour it - all the while making loud conversation and crumbs everywhere.
What would my grocer say if I told him to slice my cabbage for me? And I’m almost certain I couldn’t have my phone calls forwarded to the shop on the corner OR get a line of credit.
So those of you who live in close proximity to colmados, appreciate them! Tuck your metal jarro under your arm with pride! Bring back your bottles, and pay your cuenta in a timely fashion. In the name of convenience!
Our guest: Jill is Canadian, mother of two Dominican-Canadian children. She lived in Sosua, Dominican Republic for many years, so she gives us an unusual insight into our culinary culture.
Photos licensed from Lucas Guzmán Benady