IMAG1931Upata es famosa en toda Venezuela por sus mujeres bonitas, enclavada en un cálido valle, es la tercera ciudad en importancia del estado Bolívar, y la capital del municipio Piar. Aquí se produce un queso que posee denominación de origen pero que se imita sin contemplación en toda Venezuela. Tal es el gusto, y la amabilidad gastronómica de este producto que hoy día no hay un restauran o arepera del país que no incluya en su menú al queso guayanés, de telita o de mano, como también se le conoce.
La Villa del Yocoima, como también se le llama a Upata, es además la cuna de las mejores catalinas de Venezuela. El upatense prefiere designar con el nombre de cuca a este postre que recorre el paladar de los venezolanos, y que es hoy fuente de ingreso para familias enteras, que han convertido la elaboración y expendio de este dulce criollo en su trabajo de vida. Hecha a base de harina, papelón, y especias, el olor de la cuca embriaga, y es el mejor acompañante del queso guayanés. Puede decirse que entre la catalina upatense y el queso guayanés existe un matrimonio que no va separar ni el tiempo ni en el cambio en las costumbres gastronómicas.

Por eso, la autopista que une a los municipios Caroní y Piar es prácticamente un bulevar donde a cada cuantos kilómetros se consiguen puestos de venta de catalina. En Clase Turista recomendamos las que se venden a la altura de Los Rosos, y las que se consiguen en la entrada de Upata. Aquí, la parada es obligada, y el saludo con el que lo recibirán es una redonda y amarronda catalina donde descansa un blanquísimo trozo de queso que le hará agua la boca. De allí que si decide conocer a Upata o cuando vaya camino de la Gran Sabana, deténgase a probar las famosas cucas de Upata, y no se arrepentirá.

El arte de un buen queso

Pero para saber cuál es el secreto de este manjar y el por qué de su fama fue que acudimos a un quesero upatense, uno que aprendió de los abuelos que criaban en las sabanas y montañas de Guayana sus rebaños de donde obtenían la leche, materia prima de un queso que transforma una arepa o una cachapa de maíz tierno en un suceso culinario. Su nombre, Gregory Bermúdez, quien tiene más de 14 años produciendo toda la variedad de quesos que se conocen como Guayanés. Popular como ninguno, Gregory es una personalidad que derrocha simpatía y que no escatima a la hora de hablar sobre su experiencia como quesero. Escucharlo vale la pena, porque en sus palabras se resume parte de la historia familiar que no podría narrarse sin la presencia del queso como medio de vida. Ya sabemos que el hombre es lo que hace. Y si algo hace bien Gregory, es el queso Guayanés.
Cuenta con orgullo que en una ocasión conoció a unos turistas europeos que en su camino a la Gran Sabana se detuvieron en su negocio y probaron el queso Guayanés, y tanto fue el entusiasmo y agrado con el manjar que les ofreció que le hicieron una insólita invitación: viajar a Austria, concretamente a Viena para que les preparara, en la tierra de Mozart, el queso que tanto los había fascinado. A esa invitación le sucedió otra a España. De la tierra de Don Quijote de La Mancha, tuvo la oportunidad de conocer a Galicia.
De sus viajes a Europa, y de la tradición heredada de sus padres, Gregory aprendió a elaborar nuevos quesos. Así el queso tipo paisa, el ricotta mozarella, el de telita, y el de cincho, se encuentran y vuelan de los aparadores de la tienda Lácteos Valle Verde, ubicada en la entrada a Upata, al final de la autopista, donde puede encontrarlo con su esposa Migledys López.

Parada obligada

Se puede conocer un país sentado a la mesa y probando los secretos culinarios que son tradición de los pueblos. Por eso es que ir a Upata, y no probar el auténtico queso Guayanés, es como ir a la Gran Sabana y no detenerse a ver las impresionantes caídas de agua que van bordeando toda la ruta de esa mágica fuerza que se va desprendiendo de los verdes de la sabana. El queso Guayanés, se adapta a todos los platos venezolanos, es excelente acompañante de los bollos de maíz, infaltable en una cachapa, se la lleva bien con los dulces, puede ser invitado de honor del arroz, y no le va mal con la carne asada. Se puede decir, que el queso Guayanés es simpático, por lo joven y que se puede comer como si de una fiesta se tratara: con alegría.

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    Cuca con queso y una fresocolita fría. No hay pa’ donde coger.

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