Photo via Ricardo Basuare on Flickr.
September 18th marks Chiles’s fiestas patrias, or national holiday, but the holiday is already well underway today, and it’s only the 16th of September. As a visitor to Chile, you liken the day to the United States’ July 4th without the fireworks and corn on the cob.
So what are Chileans eating and drinking in this holiday? Mainly, meat and alcohol, in that order. Or the other way around.
Here’s a little guide to what foods and drinks not to miss to get into the full spirit of Chile’s fiestas patrias, and with a little too much alcohol in you, maybe you’ll even feel inspired to give the cueca (national dance) a try. Just be sure to bring a white hanky to twirl over your head!
The main foods associated with fiestas patrias are empanadas de pino (meat turnovers), anticuchos (skewered meat), meat in general, and choripanes, which are grilled sausages served in a small piece of marraqueta (french bread). Other items that may appear are sandwich de potito (cow-intestine sandwich), and sopaipillas (fried disks of dough, served with a hot sauce).
Chileans are pretty traditional about what is to be drunk on the national holiday, with wine and beer always figuring high, and anything with pisco (the local grape brandy), such as a piscola (pisco with coca cola), or a pisco sour (sweetened lemon juice with pisco) also a big hit. Teens will mix boxed wine with coca cola to make jote, and many people will try their hand at a terremoto, which is a kind of unaged wine with pineapple icecream and a splash of fernet (a distilled spirit). Terremoto means earthquake, and it’s with good reason that this drink has such a strong name. Be aware, that the second one is called a réplica, or aftershock. Another drink that may surprise you with its hangover-producing qualities is chicha, which is a fermented grape or apple juice, which is sweet enough to go down a treat, but can also pack a punch.
And just when you were thinking that all there is is alcohol and what about the children, there is a hypersweet fruit punch made of peaches that has a coupld of spoonfuls of wheat kernels and reconstituted peaches floating around in it, called mote con huesillo. People eat it as dessert or drink it from a glass (with a spoon).
If you’ve missed the national holiday and you want to try some of these specialties, go to a traditional Chilean restaurant such as La Piojera, El Hoyo or El Quitapenas any time of year to try the same.
And if you were wondering how much any of these items would set you back calorically, check out this link on El Mercurio, which will give you all the sad, sad details.