Why should I be ashamed to be proud?

It doesn’t have anything whatsoever to do with either Chile or food, but I just have to start this post giving credit to the webpage www.urbandictionary.com. When desciding on the topic for this post  I got to think about (as the title might hint) the field of tension between being proud and ashamed of something, and for some reason I chose to google these 2 words. This let me to the urbandictionary and the word “proshamed” with the definition “the state of being both proud and ashamed at the same time”. I’ve always loved puns which might also be one of the reasons I find Barney from How I Met Your Mother so funny, so this page just cracks me up… check it out if you want to expand your english vocabulary.

The reason why I’ve chosen the theme “proshamed” (yes I am gonna use this word as much as I can in this post!) is that I got to think of how nationalism is perceived very differently in different countries. A few weeks ago I went to the 30 year anniversary concert of the Chilean band Los Tres. The first thing that struck my mind (after of course enjoying the music) was the political touch of the concert – film clips were shown of the suppression of the dictatorship, Pinochet was imitated and buhed at (is that a verb?) and this strong political positioning created an environment in the crowd that was hard for me to feel a part of. Not because I’m politically positioned very differently, but because I don’t share the same history as the Chileans. And so it wasn’t just “the red flag” that united the crowd this evening but the very fact that everyone (execpt for the tall blond on row 43) was Chilean. To be honest it made me a bit uncomfortable when everyone started shouting “Chichichi-lelele-Viva Chile” and I started wondering why that would make me uncomfortable and then I realized… In Denmark nationalism is seen as something bad. Something connected to excluding differences, being narrow-minded, being affraid of change and closing off from the world outside, but does it have to be like this? It is not my impression that the Chilean nationalism I experienced that night at the concert had these parameters included; it was simply a community being proud of something they have in common – being Chilean. And why shouldn’t it be ok to shout out that you love your country, nationality, traditions and culture? I don’t believe that this necessarily implies that you don’t like other countries or traditions (though it has sadly become like that in Denmark in many cases) which is why I now say “I will no longer be ashamed to be proud of my country. I will no longer be proshamed of Danishness. I love Denmark”! And I also love Chile and the traditions here, so I hereby give you a proud Chilean traditional dish called “Porotos” to celebrate Chilean food culture. This dish is definetely something the Chileans can be proud of and as a “new-Chilean” I am as well.

Find the recipe for porotos here.

*As a last note I just have to mention another word I found in urbandictionary.com that defines something I think most people are familiar with (I personally know it VERY well): “dreamathon = The act of hitting the snooze button over and over again and having a different dream every time you fall asleep”. Hahahaa (as you would say in Denmark) or jajajjjaja (as written in Chilean)…!


Cheesy picoteo

Variety of cheeses on serving platter

Variety of cheeses on serving platter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a part of the Chilean social life it’s almost impossible to not expand your Spanish (or Chilean??) vocabulary with the word “picoteo”. Picoteo is what you might call finger food in English or simply snacks, but it’s more than just chips and dip. It’s a whole world of different small dishes that are served before lunch or dinner or during a party and it’s a central part of hosting in Chile.

One of the dishes you meet in almost every picoteo these days is cream cheese. The most traditional version (at least for me as I’ve known this one since the first time I visited Chile in 2007) is an entire cream cheese placed in a small plate with soy sauce and covered in roasted sesame seeds served with little crackers. It’s a delicious combination! My mother-in-law introduced me to it and I always have to control myself when it is served, to not seem too impolite as I dig into my favorite part of the picoteo. Luckily my brother-in-law is also a big fan so I’m never completely alone:).

What has changed since my first visit to Chile to now, is the frequency with which I face the cream cheese picoteo. Almost every party has some version of the dish and there are so many combinations: cream cheese with chopped chives drizzled  over it, with marinated peppers, with soy sauce and roasted walnuts, with spring onions and green and red peppers chopped up and mixed in or…. and this is my latest discovery… a role of cream cheese filled with tuna mousse and drizzled with a bit of soy and roasted sesame seeds. Serve this dish with some crackers and your guests will not stop eating until you run out (or maybe that’s just me because I really can’t stop when this is put in front of me… It’s like it’s starring at me…).

The cream cheese is not just popular for the picoteo but is also a very popular ingredient in what I would like to refer to as the “Chilean sushi”. Sushi has become hugely popular in Chile and most of the food deliveries you’ll find online (at least in Santiago) are sushi places. But it’s worth it to note that it is not sushi as you’ll find it in a traditional Japanese restaurant. The “Chilean sushi” has been revised and modified so that it fits with the taste of the Chileans, which means lots of cream cheese and avocado (“palta” in Chilean). And I must say…. it’s quite delicious though the cheese and palta makes it extra heavy. Talking about sushi I would actually like to recommend the best sushi place I’ve tried in Santiago, for those of you who are here or who might be planning to visit. It’s called Too Much Japanese and they have several restaurants and home delivery – always a treat on a week night when arriving tired from work.

I’m sure I’ll bring in more ideas for picoteo with time ’cause I just love finger food, tapas, savories, antipasto, hors d’oeuvre or whatever you want to call it and it’s a great way of socializing around food.

Fast cooking in the Santiago rush

2 months have pasted since I posted anything the last time and many things have happened in the meantime. This blog was started as a result of having the time to throw myself into a new project sharing thoughts on food and culture, experiences from my move to Chile and recipes with friends, family and whoever should be interested. But my time and energy was suddenly transferred into something else when I found a fulltime job and moved to Santiago.

It is great to be here. Since we arrived in Chile the goal was to find jobs in Santiago and settle – at least for a while. Now we’re here and the everyday life is slowly creeping into our lives followed by the inevitable rutine, thoughts about new adventures and most of all the challenge to keep doing what we love to do on the side of the job. In my case writing and anthropology.

The life we’re having now is so much different from how we were living in Copenhagen also when it comes to the way we eat and cook. The biggest change I believe is that the amount of time we have to ourselves during the week has been cut down drastically. We both leave our home in Providencia around 7.30-8 in the morning and we’re not home until 8 in the night. This means 3 hours each night to relax, maintain a social life and spend time on whatever interest or project we would like to do. Furthermore, the lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day in Chile, which means that the need for a big meal by night is almost non existing. So we don’t cook. And I miss it! It had become my main spare time interest to (almost) daily experiment with tastes and presentation and combinations of different ingredients. But first of all there is not much time with the lifestyle of Santiago, second we have a tiny kitchen which sometimes turns the otherwise so relaxing and inspiring process of cooking into full frustration and third… well there’s always supposed to be a third right? I suppose the third reason for my cooking not being prioritized as before is the challenge of cooking with other products than I’m used to. I see it as a great opportunity to have new ingredients to play with but at the same time it is very time consuming. And I don’t have a lot of time. So my challenge when I come home at 8pm and I don’t want to eat another sandwich is to focus on cooking light, easy and fast dishes with ingredients that are easy to get.

This is why I in this post have decided to recommend couscous. It’s not available in every supermarket, but it is super easy to cook (takes 5 minutes!) and you can basically mix it up with whatever you have at hand. In Denmark I loved to add tomatoes, rucola, red onion and most importantly a good creamy feta chesse. The dairy culture of Chile is not very well developed though and I still haven’t found a good feta (please let me know if you have any information on where to find this in Santiago…) but as I said just add whatever you have in the fridge. I won’t leave a recipe for this as it is basicallly up to your own taste and imagination what to mix in and the box of the couscous always has a guide on how to cook it. The other day I mixed in little pieces of sausage, steamed broccoli with chili and chopped up advocado. Might sound weird at first but hey… that’s what I had in the fridge and turned out to work quite alright:).

Taste of life

How plain life becomes when you can’t eat tasty food. For 3 days now I haven’t been able to eat anything but white bread, pasta and plain yogurt. Water has been my source of fluid, but the water here in Santiago de Chile basically tastes like the air looks – full of smog. I’m sure it’s clean enough to drink but anyway the taste makes you not want to drink too much. Food poisoning (or something alike) is the reason my weekend has been focused on not eating and not moving which obviously hasn’t been very interesting, but it has given me time to consider how important food, or more specifically taste, is for quality of life.

I am now able to move around again and I’m ready to start up my social life after days of not seeing people. But still I can’t eat and this actually has a huge effect on how I can attend social meetings – there will be no BBQ on sunday, no coffee in a cafe this afternoon and definitely no meeting over a nice lunch or dinner. I’ve always known that food and drinks are very central in most social meetings. Even the way we place ourselves in a meeting is most often around a table, the BBQ or a bar – around things that we can share and consume. I think the sharing of something makes it easier and more comfortable to meet another person, because it provides you with a base of having something in common. It’s like the weather – you can always talk about the weather. And you can always talk about food. Moreover, the physical positioning around something that you share can create a feeling of safety, where you’re shielded off from the world outside. Within the borders of the group there is a mutual understanding of why we’re together, what social codes are dominating and what is shared. This I believe is a safety that everyone is seeking to create a comfortable setting in which you can enjoy both old and new social relations. Maybe this could partly be an explanation to why food and drinks are so important when we meet with friends, family or strangers?! Do you have other ideas of why it might be like this or do you maybe have another conception of the role of food in social meetings? Leave a comment below – it would be great to hear your opinion!

So… this break in my consummation of food and the very little stimulation my taste buds have received these last days has resulted in a craving for food that I haven’t experienced for long. I have decided that the first thing I’m gonna cook when I can start to eat normal again, is this chicken-spinach lasagna. It’s beautifully soft, the chicken and spinach makes it lighter than a regular lasagna and the chili gives a nice kick to it. A great recipe that I got from an old friend’s dad and you can find it here.

Heavy but delicious

This is the first dish I want to share with you. Not to set the line in the style of food I am going to present, because no matter how much I do love this dish, I must admit that it doesn’t look very appealing and it doesn’t do much good for your body, except of course from satisfying your taste buds. No, I want to share this dish with you because it provides an opportunity for me to present where I come from and at the same time give some thoughts on my new home, Chile.

The dish is Danish and this is where I come from. Denmark that is…. some people confuse us with Holland for some unknown reason. It might be the blond hair, the sound of the language or maybe the unreasonably harsh foreign policy that is being led in both countries. I hope most of you when reading this last comment doesn’t know what I’m talking about – that would mean that Denmark might still have a good reputation in some parts of the world. I’m sure I will touch upon this subject again some other time. But to get back to the point – I come from Denmark like the dish. The dish consists of boiled potatoes, fried bacon and parsley sauce (*in Danish: kartofler med stegt flæsk og persillesovs). Potatoes and pork I believe are the most popular ingredients in Danish cooking both traditionally and today. As of 1st of January 2012 there were 12,3 million pigs in Denmark. That means 2,2 pigs per person, which is actually nothing compared to what is said about the ratio between sheep and people in New Zealand. But we do eat a lot of pork and we love our bacon. Nice and greasy with an amazing smoked flavour – perfect to cure a hangover.

The plate on the picture is from our goodbye-dinner with my Danish family 6 weeks ago. It was actually my husband who requested it. He also knows how to appreciate a good piece of bacon and that is even though he is Chilean. We’ve recently moved to Chile  and I’ve found that bacon is not a very well-appreciated piece of the pork here. In the supermarket you usually just find 1 or 2 different brands and they are super expensive. The explanation I’ve got from Chileans is, that it is too greasy and it is considered to be bad for your health (there might be something about that. After eating this plate I could almost feel the grease running in my veins). But the few times I’ve cooked with it here in Chile, and for example sprinkled a bit of crisp crumbled bacon on a salad, people have loved the taste. So it must be something cultural. Some common agreement that bacon is not something wanted.

Poor bacon I say… But no worries.. In Denmark I know people who says, that every dish becomes better if you add bacon. I even know people who makes little baskets of bacon to serve bacon in. Just like the one on the picture. I actually quite like the idea of serving food in food, though it doesn’t have to be all bacon. It seems simple, sustainable and fresh. Maybe I’ll experiment more with that in the future…

I want to end with the point about culturally shaped believes about certain types of food being healthy or unhealthy or gross or delicious. I find it interesting to see the amount of impact the food culture of a place or a country has on the way people, we, understand healthy living and quality of life. What should our children eat? Can I become in a better mood through changing my diet? Is food a pleasure or a necessity? And is it surrounded by social relations or is that just my cultural background bringing me to the conviction that it is so?

Find the recipe for “Boiled potatoes with bacon and parsley sauce” here.