“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” Orson Welles
Being in a completely new country the amount of new things that you have to adapt to can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Everything is new from the language, customs, and people, to the schedule, values and environment…but most importantly the food!
Adjusting to the type of food Chileans eat hasn’t been a breeze. The United States is such a melting pot of cultures, so it’s hard to categorize one type of food that is solely known as typical American food. Growing up I was exposed to a wide range of foods from a variety of areas, including Indian, Thailand, China, Mexico and even Ethiopia. That is why I would say the hardest thing to acclimate to is the lack of variety as far as food here. Chilean food is simple, without a lot of spices or a ton of different ingredients in one dish.
I am not a picky eater so there aren’t a lot of specific foods I miss terribly from the States but there are just a couple that come to mind. No worries, the world didn’t come to an end when I got here. Chileans love their sushi, so there are plenty of options on that end. But here it seems very rare to have a big salad as a meal. My family always has lettuce on the table but it is never the main dish. So I'm definitely missing the “big salad” meal and my wonderful Sweetgreen runs with my friends back home. I also really miss hummus. After asking a couple of people Anna and I were told that there was this one place in Viña that made hummus so we went and bought some. Unfortunately I don’t think what we bought would be categorized as hummus in the States. It was just watery mashed up garbanzos, without any sort of flavor, really disappointing. We were able to go to Lider, the big grocery store that has some specialty foods, like peanut butter, that the local grocery stores don’t have, and buy all the ingredients for hummus! I also had a craving for quinoa so one night I decided to make a big quinoa salad with some veggies from the market- tomato, avocado, corn, scallions- and my family loved it! I also made it last night for the small birthday party the CIEE kids had for Maggie, and it was devoured within 10 minutes!
A big part of Chilean culture is centered around food. Like I’ve mentioned before, meal times are spent with the family. Everyone gets together to catch up, talk, laugh and eat. The meal times are different from the typical United States’ meals. Breakfast is pretty much the same, except on weekends there is no big breakfast like there might be in the States. But here lunch is the big get together meal followed by dinner or “once”, which is usually just tea, coffee and some bread with avocado, cold cuts and cheese.
As far as food in general I really thought I would be eating a lot more fish since we are right on the coast, but that hasn’t exactly been the case. For protein my family eats a lot of chicken or beef. And as you can probably guess to go with that protein we eat a lot of rice and potatoes. But aside from that I’ve had some really delicious soups with lentils or garbanzo beans.
One thing I love about Chile is the fruit and veggies! Every Wednesday and Saturday there is a big fruit and vegetable market (feria de frutas y verdudas), which is where all the locals come to sell their fruit and vegetables. In my house there is a big bowl that is always filled with apples, oranges, bananas, kiwis, and, of course, avocados! I’ve also been enjoying different vegetables such as beets (remolacha) and artichokes (alcachofa), which I wasn’t necessarily a fan of in the States!
I’ve tried some new delicious typical Chilean dishes here as well!
Of course a classic is the empanada. An empanada is simply a typical pasty, stuffed with a variety of different foods, which can include meats, fish, cheese and/or vegetables. The typical empanada here is called Empanada de Pino, which is filled with ground meat, onions, raisins, hard boiled egg, and an olive. I’ve been told that in Concón, two towns over from Viña, there are the best shrimp empanadas, so I look forward to heading over there sometime soon to do some sand boarding on the dunes and afterwards grabbing a warm shrimp empanada!
Photo Cred to dateungusto27yess.blogspot
Another typical Chilean dish I’ve had is called Charquicán. It is a stew-like dish filled with potatoes, squash or pumpkin, onions, corn and peas and sometimes served with a fried egg on top. I think of it as the closets thing the Chileans have to curry but it really doesn’t have any spicy kick to it. It’s a really wonderful comfort food that packs a lot of veggies in one bite!
A typical soup served in Chile is called Cazuela. The soup consists of a liquid broth filled with either rice or noodles, (when my mom made it we had ABC noodles!) and big chunks of corn, potato, squash and a type of meat. A very filling meal!
The next typical Chilean dish is called Chorrillana and from my understanding this dish is more like an activity than just another meal to eat. It reminds me of the Vermonster from Ben and Jerrys. You are supposed to get a big group together and head out to a restaurant to eat it. It is a huge plate of French fries, topped with slices of meat, onions and eggs, something I would hope not just one person could finish. I haven’t tried it and don’t really have a strong urge to…. but I just thought I would mention it because it is part of the culture!
Another typical Chilean “street food” is the Completo. This is just like a hot dog but on top of the ketchup and mustard the Chileans add chopped tomatoes, onions, avocado and A LOT of mayonnaise. Yeah, don’t ask me….but they love it!
Lastly, my favorite new dish that I’ve tried here has been Pastel de Choclo. Pastel de Choclo is a super typical dish served at the campos. It’s made in one of those clay bowls, (made in Pomaire) and is a layering of ground meat, onions, strips of chicken, hard boiled egg, olive, and then on top sweet mashed up corn. The dish is baked in clay bowls so the top forms a wonderful golden crust. I love corn so naturally this has been my favorite new dish I’ve had here so far! I was so happy yesterday when my mom said she was making it for lunch. It takes awhile to prepare but it is so worth it!
The Pastel de Choclo we had in Pomaire, soo good!!
I love trying new things, and I'm sure that as I continue to explore Chile I'll find more delicious foods to taste everywhere I go!
Ciao for now!