Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Las Comidas Chilenas

          Prior to our departure for this mission a Chilean-American friend told us "Santiago is full of beautiful parks, and plenty paths on which to bike, jog, or walk.  That's a good thing, as you're going to need them.  That's because the food is so good, and they feed you so much of it."  Now we understand the reason for his warning.  The food is tasty, alright, but not quite world-class cuisine.  The portions served in any public eating establishment, however, are always enormous!  I am surprised that there are not an awfully lot of overweight people living here.

          The daily meal routine is:  a small breakfast (desayuno) consisting of coffee or juice plus a pastry or yogurt.  Almuerzo (lunch) is the BIG meal of the day.  It starts around 1:00 - 1:30, in general, and can go until 3:00, easily.  Families usually eat it together if they can.  Cena (supper) is late and small.  It is served, genearlly, between 8:00 - 9:00 PM and consists of a sandwich, or empanada, fruit, and/or something sweet.  (They stay up late here, and for that reason missionaries are told to get their eight hours of sleep betwen 11:30 PM and 7:30 AM.)

           The most striking thing about the Chilean diet is the very large amount of meat they eat.  I'm told that worldwide, their per capita consumption is just beneath that of Argentina.  Most of it is beef, and most of that is imported from Argentina.  On any given afternoon, as we return to our apartment for almuerzo, we whiff the tantalizing smells of beef dishes being prepared by our neighbors as they waft up through the elevator shafts.  Chicken, pork and some turkey is consumed, and in the south they eat a lot of lamb.  A great deal of inexpensive fresh seafood is available throughout Chile, so large amounts of that are consumed, also.  Almost every imaginable mollusk, crustacean, or fin fish is served in restaurants.  Ceviche, Perú's national dish, is common here, but not as tasty as I've had it in Perú or Guatemala.

          To whatever extent Chile has a national dish it is the empanada,  meaning "something surrounded by or coated with bread."  These are sold, hot and fresh, everywhere.  Millions are eaten each day.  They are the 'Egg McMuffin' to the breakfast-on-the-run crowd.  They are eaten as fast food, as we would a sandwich or hamburger.  They are sold in small street corner shops and sidewalk kiosks, as well as in the finest restaurants.  Almost anywhere other types of food are sold, you can buy a hot empanada, including McDonalds and KFC.  They are usually baked, but sometimes they're deep fried.  The crust around them is usually like a folded flatbread, but sometimes it's more flaky, like a croissant.  They are almost always filled with meat in a sauce that can include boiled eggs, olives, mushrooms, etc.  Another frequent fillng is cheese.  Then there are fruit-filled empanadas (pineapple, peach, etc.,) and seafood fillings (usually shrimp, scallops or crab).  Here's a photo.


          The foreign diner here needs to constantly remember that when they order what they think would be a full meal at home, what arrives at the table will be far more than they want to eat.  Typically, a sandwich called  a 'churrasco' or 'lomito' will come with about 1" thick scliced roasted or grilled meat on a 9" diameter bun.  Seriously, you can't eat it without a steak knife and fork.  Half-way through you have to ask for the 'doggie bag' (same term here).  This photo doesn't do justice to the magnitude of the sandwich.  A common dish here is 'lomo a la pobre', which, unlike the name implies, is not for the poor.  It amounts to a huge slab of steak, 16 oz, 3/4 " thick, grilled.  Over that they spoon caramelized onions.  Then they pile on all they french fries it can possibly hold.  On top of the fries are placed two fried eggs, sunny-side up.  I think this is typical of the emphasis of meat in the diet.  Missionaries eat almuerzo each day with members, and they all tell me that the meal always includes a large portion of meat.

          Another favorite dish in restaurants is the parrillada.  We were introduced to this in Guatemala, but it seems to be more common here.  A parrillada is a selection of various cuts of meat that are grilled over wood coals or charcoal.  The ones I've seen have always included beef, chicken, pork, and chorizo (sausage).  Sometimes it;s brought to your table on a large tray (usually ten or twelve pieces, so be prepared to share) and sometimes it's brought on a small hibachi-type grill with the hot coals still under it.  
          Before we left Utah another Chileno told me:  "Eat a completo for me!"  I had no idea what he was talking about.  A 'completo' is a Chilean hot dog.  The franfurter is the same, and the bun is a little larger.  But instead of adding mustard and calling it good, they put on chopped onions and tomatoes, than a liberal layer of guacamole.  The whole thing is then laved in mayonnaise and served in a special holder.  I guess that it's about as 'complete' as a hot dog gets.  Or maybe it's named that because it makes up a complete meal by itself.  Of course, it has to be eaten with a knife and fork.  Like empanadas, they also can be bought anywhere.  Here is a photo.

          I would say that, by far, the favorite vegetable in this country is corn.  Not the dried and ground maiz of Mexico and Central America (you'll only find that in Doritos tortilla chips here), but wholly-ripened, boiled kernals of corn.  Here they call it 'choclo'.  It's grown in fat ears that produce fat kernals.  They put it in almost everything:  soups, drinks, salads, desserts, empanadas, and a concoction called 'pastel de choclo' (corn cake).  Pastel de Choclo is a sort of shepherd's pie, with the obligatory meat, potatoes and corn, olives and boiled eggs, covered with a layer of corn meal, and baked.

          Chilean salads have taken a little getting used to.  A large salad, or salad bar, is served at almuerzo.  It is a selection of three or four coarsely sliced items such as cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, onions, corn, green beans, etc.  You take what you want and then put on a dressing.  This can consist of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, vegetable oil, vinegar, and lemon juice.  Lemon juice alone seems to be the favorite.

          Chilenos eat a lot more fresh-baked bread products, from the ubiquitous small panaderias (bakeries), than they do sliced and wrapped commercial varieties.  Whenever we stop at one of the neighborhood bakeries, they are bustling with business.  We buy a variety of fresh rolls, baguettes, and pastries and they are delicious.  We have no problem getting rye bread here (the German influence).  There is a large variety of other foods stocked in the largest grocery stores.  Some of the things we can't get, however, are bagels, cheddar cheese, elbow macaroni, real ketchup, shortening, brown sugar and Miracle Whip.  We manage to struggle by, however.

          There is a variety of international cuisine:  Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, German, African, Peruvian, and French. for starters.  So far, I haven't found Mexican or Spanish.  Where we live in Providencia we have no end of fine, relatively inexpensive, dining.  Most of the restaurants offer a variety of dishes, many with rice or pasta, papas fritas o papas pures (potatoes, fried or pureed) or even baked potatoes.  Lots of seafood dishes are always available.

          We enjoy the huge selection of fresh fruits and vegetables that are raised here.  Chile's fruit export industry is vast and well-known.  They are the largest exporter of table grapes, and the fifth largest exporter of wines.  (We've sampled the grapes, but not the wines.)  My guess is that in this, the strongest of all Latin American economies, it makes sense for Chile to use its arable land for producing crops for export rather than forage for livestock; hence, the importation of beef.

          Our friend Lucho was right:  Santiago has lots of very nice areas for walking, and lots of very nice food.  We are making use of both.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Learning to Blog

We are trying to learn to blog and we are having some difficulty.  Our grandaughter, Lexi, taught us how to add photos in a different way so they are included in the blog.  They can also be tapped to enlarge them to fill the screen so you can actually see what we are posting.  Now, that having been said, please be patient with us because we are not very good at this yet. 

The photo above is of me and Sis. Macdonald with a group of missionaries at the Santiago  Missionary Training Center.  We give them their vaccinations while they are here in Santiago.  All of them are from Latin American countries and have calls to one of the missions in Chile. Since they already speak Spanish, they are only here for 19 days.  They sang us a beautiful version of 'Oh My Father" sung to the melody of "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing'.  What a treat it was.  These new missionaries have such a spirit about them.  

The next two photos are of a monkey puzzle tree--so named because there is no way a monkey could get into it.  Each leaf is a thick and  succulent like with a sharp point on it.  The leaves go around the branches in circles making each branch a long round spiky extension.  There are hundreds or thousands of leaves per branch.  It is pretty wicked and rather unique looking.  The photos were taken in Coyhaique in the far south.

Fall in Santiago has been beautiful.  There is a tree planted in abundance around the area offices which has really intrigued us.  It changes like a rainbow with a variety of different colors from green to yellow to red to deep purple--almost black.  The leaves will be in different stages all on the same tree.  I took photos of some of the leaves in their different stages and thought we would post them to show how wonderful they are.  

On Saturday, June 6th we had our first totally free day.  The sky was blue and the winter weather very mild.  We decided to take a trip to the largest hill in Santiago, San Cristòbal.  It was about a 2 or 3 mile walk to the foot of the hill.  Then we took the funicular up to the top of the hill.  This is a machine that pulls a train-like car up a hill on a 45° angle.  The first funicular railway was built in Italy to go up Mount Vesuvius in the early 1900's.  The song 'Funiculi, Funicula' was written to commemorate the opening of the Italian funicular.  Most days we do not even see the Andes, which are about as close as the Wasatch Mountains are to Salt Lake City.  This is due to smog and mistiness.  From the top of the hill we had a grand view of the city of Santiago and the snow capped Andes.  It was a beautiful sight except for the blanket of smog over the city which is ever-present in the winter here.  I'll post a few photos of the Andes and the city from the hill.

We have befriended a young woman here--a recent convert from Osorno.  She is good friend of Pres. and Sis. Lovell.  She moved to Santiago right after her baptism and just happens to be in our ward.  We had her over for Sunday dinner a week ago and plan to have her and her friend over once a month.  She is a darling girl who has earned a full scholarship to the University of Chile to study law.   She met the Lovells by knocking on their door one day.  As a school project, they were to collect some type of information and her teacher told her to go ask the Mormons in the big white house.  They fell in love with her and have been a great support for her.  Come to find out, her mother was a less active member and had never shared that bit of information with the daughter.  Now the mother is back attending meetings and a brother has been baptized.  Here is a photo of Camila eating hot, home-made apple pie with ice cream.

We have also reconnected with a wonderful missionary friend of ours who we met in Guatemala.  His name is Franco Peralta.  We was a new missionary serving in Ipala while we were in Chiquimula.  He was at our home a few times for lasagna dinners before transfers.  That was a tradition which we had.  We took a special liking to him.  His eyes always sparkled with enthusiasm for the work.  He helped us find and teach the family of Wyron Morales, husband to Danielle Chabries.  They lived in a village above Ipala which was difficult to find.  Elder Peralta and his companion met us and took us on the bus and taught the family several times.  Elder Peralta was from Chile but that didn't mean much to us at the time.  The Executive Secretary to the Area Presidency, who just happened to be our son's Paul's mission president in Mexico, helped us locate 'Elder Peralta'.  It turns out that he lives right here in Santiago.  We had lunch with him Saturday and that was such a treat.  The photo we got of him was very fuzzy so I will post a photo of him at our home in Guatemala. He is the second elder from the right with the big smile.

He has brought us wonderful cookies and then Saturday he brought us a cake called 'A Thousand Leaves', a special pastry here.  It is made with a thin piece of pastry like pie crust covered with a carmel like sauce then a layer of crust again and then carmel again--hence the name 'a thousand leaves'.  There are many layers of the crust/carmel.  We first had it at the bed and breakfast in Coyhaiqui.
Here's a photo.  As you can see, we have almost finished it off.  Its pretty yummy.

Copper is a huge industry here and many artistic engravings are made with thin
sheets of copper.  We have purchased a few as souvenirs.  Right now they are
hanging in our living room and we are really enjoying them.  The round plate is
the emblem of Chile and there was one in Dave's home when he was growing
up--a gift from his Aunt Helen and Uncle Dave when they lived in Chile.  The
small square one is the temple in Santiago and the large one is 'Nephi's Dream'
from the Book of Mormon.  On blurry one on the right is a map of Chile.
Dave's camera is going out and the photos are blurry.

This second photo is our favorite.  It depicts Christ appearing in the Americas
after his resurrection.  It is a meter wide and 18 inches high and has a lot of

We are cat sitting again while the Sisters are traveling to collect histories in
Concepción.  A senior elder here made a kitty condo for her and she is loving it.
She sits at the window for hours and looks out and she sleeps up on it and
sharpens her claws on the carpet rather than the furniture, which is wonderful.