Friday, November 7, 2008


Yesterday something occurred to me as I was walking to the busstop to get to the very non-pedestrian and non-non-car owner friendly strip of restaurants called BorderĂ­o, accessible by a series of busses to get to which one must cross six and seven-lane highways or preferably, Alias-style, rappel down with a zipline attached to a "ninja" star, while speaking your code name in a whisper.

What occurred to me was the following: Chileans often tell me which foods I like which "engordar" or "make you fat." Lentils, I've been told, engordan. Chirimoya (custard apple) as well. The delicious summertime dish of fresh beans with ground corn and basil occasionally with squash mixed in (porotos granados)? Engorda. Any sweet fruit? Engorda. Any form of vegetarian protein? Engorda.

I was thinking about this not because I was stuck on thinking about my weight. Rather, I was going out for a nice meal, at which time, foods that engordan and those that don't should be filed away with that note that tells you to call the dentist; information for another time. It was late rush hour, and I was scanning the people all around me, and ever sixth or seventh had a sopaipilla (or two) in hand. Sopaipillas are fried disks of (lard-infused) dough which are purchased on the street for less than a quarter. You can eat them plain, with a fresh salsa, with ketchup, with mustard. No matter how you eat them, they're a fat injection that goes straight to your gut and your arteries.

What seems strange to me, then, is how when people are talking about the foods that "make you fat," this one seems never to make the list. Is it because it's obviously not good for you, whereas legumes and fruit (which for the record, I do not believe contribute significantly to Chile's obesity statistics), masquerade (joking) as healthy?

The traditional Chilean diet that people eat at home and at the local comedores (small storefront restaurants), while plentiful, is pretty healthy. Meat, starch, veggie, rinse and repeat. But when I see the cones of frenchfries, the greasy one-ply napkins wrapped around sopaipillas, the arrollados primaveras (fried spring rolls), the gargantuan servings of icecream at Bravissimo and other icecream chains, and the half-meter long superocho candybars that are sold for a pittance on the bus, I think to myself, and you really want to take me to task for eating lentils?

And then we got on the bus and ziplined down to the other bus and walked and walked to where the rich people eat. And you know? There wasn't a fat one among them.


Marite said...

Definitely the first time I have ever heard lentils called fattening!

Stephen said...

You know, I see the same stuff here. It's a strange thing (at least in Mexico) that food isn't all that expensive. However, said "food" consists of tortillas, cheese, beans, heaps o' lard, meat and maybe *maybe* a stray vegetable that fell in on accident.

The poor in Mexico don't die of starvation, it's quite the opposite. Diabetes and obesity are big problems due to their diet. We too have those fried fat treats- they are sold by vendors to children outside their schools every day.

The rich who can afford veggies and healthy foods are skinny, while the poor are fat. Strange.

A bit of a reversal from times long past I'd say.