I suppose the logical place to start would be with the basics.
The basics here are pan (bread—and lots of it), palta (avocados), and mayonesa. The pan and palta are to die for.
The bread comes in all shapes and sizes, but most often not the sliced loaf-in-a-bag we’re used to in the States. I took some photos in a lovely little panadería (bakery) we found to show you how wonderfully unique the bread is. (Hannah, you would die of happiness here.) My favorite are the round ones in the front with the little dents in the top. They’re rather more dense than normal bread, but other than that I don’t know what they do that makes it so delicious.
The other day Colin and I were walking around downtown, hungry but not wanting to eat a full meal, so we went to the panadería and bought two of the long skinny ones. (They look like either really small French bread or really huge hot dog buns.) We dubbed them Aladdin bread, mostly because we felt a lot like Aladdin walking around town eating a loaf of bread. However, Aladdin wouldn’t have had to steal this bread, because they only cost 100 pesos each. That’s 20 cents. Twenty. Cents. For a giant piece of Aladdin bread.
It’s no wonder they eat so much bread down here.
Also not surprising is the fact that avocados are so much more delicious here than in the States. I mean, when people point out palta trees along the side of the road driving home from the airport, what do you expect? I haven’t tried to buy palta yet, but I imagine it’s also cheaper here than in the states. Consequently, it comes on everything. Every sandwich or “hamburger” you order comes with palta on it, up to and including hot dogs, which is another story altogether. People even eat just bread with palta on it. My favorite version of salad I’ve seen so far is a bowl of tomato slices plus a bowl of avocado slices. Delicious.
On a less delicious note, many people put mayonnaise on everything. Thank heavens my family doesn’t, or I would look like the pickiest eater ever. Colin’s family, however, has a bowl of mayonesa out at every meal, and nearly everything you order at a restaurant will come with mayo on it. The most interesting thing about mayonnaise is not that it comes on everything, but rather what it comes in. Which is bags. That’s right, not jars of glass or even plastic, but bags. I think the five brands of mayo on the same shelf also gives away how much they eat it.
This is not entirely related to food, but do you want to know what else comes in bags? Everything. From condiments (mayo, but also ketchup and mustard sometimes), to jelly, to the powdered milk my family makes me every morning. I even found powdered puré (delicious mashed potatoes) in a bag in the pantry the other day. After noticing this bag trend in the kitchen, I began to realize that it’s everywhere. Even the shampoo, hand soap, and laundry soap comes in bags. I’d be willing to bet that the amount of plastic in a bag versus a jar or bottle is different enough that it lowers the price, in which case they’re onto something here, but it still feels a little weird to squeeze mayonnaise out of a plastic bag.
|Powdered mashed potatoes, powdered milk, and jelly|
|Hand soap- there is also shampoo and detergent|
|Every time I have ordered a completo I have been|
so consumed by eating it that I forgot to take pictures.
So I shamelessly stole this one off the internet. :)
What could be more logical than combining all the staples of your diet into one glorious conglomeration of deliciousness? Nothing. That’s why they created the completo. (At least, that’s my theory…) First, you take Aladdin bread and slice it open longways along the top. Then, place a large-ish hot dog inside (there will still be plenty of bread on both ends). Next, stuff chopped tomatoes anywhere you can find room without overflowing out of the bread. Then smear mashed-up palta over the whole thing till it looks like there’s probably more palta than bread. Finally (if so desired), dump blobs of mayo on top. The result is the most delicious hot-dog-related food you will ever eat. Especially if there is indeed more palta than bread. And the best part is that depending on where you go and how big your completo is, it will only cost you between $1.50 and $2.75.
If the completo will be my downfall here, the chorrillana just might be Colin’s. You might be tempted to think that a dish based around French fries and meat has got to be American, but there is no equal to the chorrillana in the States. Essentially, it’s a giant plate of thick French fries, with sautéed onions and tiny pieces of fried egg dumped over the fries, topped with any (or every) kind of meat you can imagine. This beauty is a chorrillana especial, which has lomo, viennesas (hot dog), and something else I can’t remember. It’s amazing. Colin and I have tried to split one between the two of us twice, but we failed to finish both times. Splitting one between three people, however, seems to be the magic portion size. Me and some of the other gringas demolished our chorrillanas the other night.
On a more cultured, less terribly unhealthy note, tea is very popular here. Because of the strong European influence in Argentina and Chile, they are the only two countries where tea is more popular than coffee. (It’s a good thing I don’t like coffee, because my options would essentially be Nescafé instant coffee, or a $5.75 cup of Starbucks.) Sometimes a taste of home is worth $5.75 though, and Colin and I have been to Starbucks once a week so far to taste home and do homework.
However, in an effort to find a slightly more economical (and Chilean) place to do our homework and become regulars, Colin and I have been café-hunting! We had some success at Mango’s, where we ordered té nacional con leche. Who knew that “with milk” meant that you get a teacup full of hot milk, and a tea bag? Regardless of being totally not what we expected, it was delicious, and we hope to return.
While it is most certainly more American than Chilean, helado (ice cream) has become an important part of our time here. When Starbucks is too far away or too expensive, we found a little place right next to the Plaza where they sell soft-serve McDonald’s-style strawberry or chocolate ice cream for 350 pesos. That’s 71 cents for a delicious, sugary taste of home. As you can see, we enjoy treating ourselves!