Saturday, May 17, 2008

torta chilena?

torta chilena?
Cargado originalmente por bearshapedsphere

Before I moved to Chile, I read the classified ads for apartments because I wanted to know what I was getting myself into, financially, and spacewise and any other way I could before transplanting myself. One bedroom, two bedroom, bathroom, mudroom/laundry it all seemed to make sense. But the one thing I couldn't get my brain around was the "American kitchen." Dishwasher? No way. Extra large fridge? Not that, either. What could it be? I asked around, and couldn't get an answer. Finally, when I got here, I found out. An "American kitchen" is one that is open on one side, towards the living room or dining room. It has its benefits, for entertaining, for example, but most Chileans are dead set against foodsmells anywhere in the house other than the kitchen, so most would prefer a door to their kitchen. I definitely distinguish between the open kitchen and the closed one, but it would never occur to me to refer to the former as "American." But I guess in a way it's a compliment. So observed are we as United Statesians, that they even notice our kitchens!

I suppose the French have gone through it with their fries, the Belgians with their waffles, the Dutch with going dutch, and dozens of other nationalities have listened to tales of what they eat and what they do, and heard their names attached to it. Maybe they feel proudish, even as the description doesn't fit what they do. But everyone knows about Belgium! Everyone knows about France!

One thing about Chile is that we believe we live completely under the radar. No one is thinking about this fringe country stuck hastily on the west side of the Andes, population not even 1/3 of Myanmar, and no totalitarian regime nor terrible national disaster (volcanic eruptions and earthquakes notwithstanding) to make us famous. No one thinks about what we do or what we eat. Well-heeled Chileans who've had the chance to travel report resorting to drawing maps, and frustratedly saying, you know Argentina? Yeah, we're near there.

So imagine my surprise in the town of Nicoya, Costa Rica, the one with the fabulously old gleaming white church (constructed in 1633, repainted yesterday, it looks like), when I went to the bakery to grab some nibbles for the road. There, in the bread and pastry shop, amid the thisses and thats and who knows what else, I found the item pictured above, this "Torta Chilena," (lit: Chilean Cake). I peered around it, looked at it from the sides, the top and even the bottom. It was some kind of layered thing with cream caramel, and a giant heaping stripe of meringue on top. I've lived in Chile for four years, and never seen anything like it. My Chilean friend Sharon tells me, "it looks disgusting."

I can't speak to how delicious or not the famous cake was, preferring a baguette and some cream cheese. But I will say that after my moment of what IS that? I felt a tinge of national pride. Someone knows who we are! Their observation of what we do and eat is a little skewed, but hey! At least we made the bakery racks!


Anonymous said...

I think Chile may get some recognition for wine. Whenever I buy some Chilean wine I think of you and wonder if you have seen the same kind or if we get the stuff that they figure no one will care if they ship it out of country.

Eileen said...

actually, I think it might be the other way around, with you guys getting the "export quality" wines. Though a number of vinters don't really want to export right now because with the price set in dollars and the dollar falling, the price isn't very advantageous back on the home front.

I think you get a lot more Casillero del Diable than we do. My not so spendy wine of the moment is Oveja Negra. The cheapest table wine that's decent is Misiones de Rengo. Do you see either of those over there? Oveja Negra is actually quite good, whereas the other is just okay. But really, so long as it's not Gato (wine in a box), it tends to be okay.

I should say I drink almost exclusively red wine, so if you drink white, I have no clue about it. What are you drinking these days, anyway? I'll let you know if I've seen it here!

Sharon said...

LOL! I'm there! :P

And in reponse to your comment, export quality Gato is everywhere!! (I've seen in in the States, in Israel, in Japan and in China)
Apparently, it's not that bad.

I like Oveja Negra too, but only the red wines, not the whites