The Importance Of Food In Latin Culture
In many parts of Latin America, food plays a crucial role in the regions, countries, and communities as a whole.
Historically, Maya, Inca, and the Aztecs all conducted business and celebrated significant life events centered around food.
The geographic region that spans Latin America is vast, spanning two continents and over 7 million miles, yet the common denominator was food even in all that area.
While the foods of Latin America resemble one another, the reality is that they are unique to the specific region and influences that helped span the dishes. For example, food in central Mexico may share similarities with foods in Peru, but the two are incredibly different upon closer inspection.
There are some common celebrations throughout Latin America, such as Independence Day and Christmas, but the foods prepared and consumed are all subject to the specific region, history, and tradition in each country and region. event Of Food In Latin American Culture
Latin American food is as diverse as the over 60 million who live in the area. As a cuisine, Latin American food is a mixture of local indigenous tribes, Spanish, African, Portuguese, and Italian foods. In Mexico, the fusion of Maya and Aztec cuisine with traditional Spanish foods is what we consider Mexican food.
Meanwhile, the northern end of South America had a heavy African influence due to the influx of the slave trade centuries before.
In general, Latin American foods are carbohydrate-heavy, emphasizing maize, whether as tortillas, pupusas, or others. The reason behind carbohydrate-heavy foods is a couple of factors.
First, carbohydrates are easy to produce and consume, making them accessible for people of all socioeconomic statuses. Second, maize was an effective form of produce in ancient Latin America, and many recipes used maize, rice, potatoes, and bread as the centerpieces of traditional cuisine.
- Cheap and easy to grow
- Accessible to all income levels
- Acts as a vehicle for other ingredients
- Heavy in calories
Overall, Latin American food may be carb-heavy. Still, it serves as a vehicle for protein and vegetables and depending on the specific dish. As a result, it can be a very nutritious, balanced meal.
Latin American Food Traditions
Food plays a role in celebrations and significant events from births of a newborn, quinceaneras, National Holidays, Religious Holidays, deaths and remembrances, and other celebrations.
In every corner of Latin America, there are significant events celebrated, and each one has a unique cultural dish to accompany the celebration.
Independence Day: in every country of Latin America, celebrating Independence Day is a significant event bringing out regional dishes in honor of the event. Furthermore, most countries in Latin America share their Independence Days in proximity to each other, making the region one giant celebration.
Quinceanera: In Latin American cultures, the celebration of womanhood is known as a Quinceanera which occurs after a girl turns 15. Often, the ritual includes a church service followed by a party with food and drink specific to the town, village, city, and region.
Dia de Los Muertos: Observed on the 1st and 2nd of November, Dia de Los Muertos is an observation of loved ones who have passed. Typically, there are altars with likenesses of the loved ones, complete with sugary offerings to the spirits. Often big parties and meals are planned.
Hispanic Heritage Month: From September 15th to October 15th is recognized as Hispanic Heritage Month, concluding on the 15th of October as most Latin American countries celebrate Independence Day.
Dia de La Raza: The recognition of Latin American culture is known as Dia de La Raza and is observed throughout the region on October 15th.
Christmas: Predominantly Catholic, Latin America has a variety of observances and celebrations around Christmas. Parties and events center around pastries and drinks that reflect the season and offer a unique offering to Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and other deities.
Types Of Foods Celebrated
Each region celebrates with dishes that are historical to their traditions and specific culture. That said, below is a list of some of the most iconic dishes around Latin America.
Argentina: Asado is the most prevalent dish in Argentina cuisine. Asado translates to “grilled,” and barbeque is the top way to prepare meats in Argentina. Traditional Asado includes carne asada (marinated meat), sausages, and chitterlings (cow intestines), usually topped with a chimichurri sauce made from garlic, oil, and parsley.
A traditional Asado BBQ is an event where people and families gather around while the meats are smoked and grilled over an open-air grill during the entire day. Meat is the centerpiece of Argentinian cuisine, though there is a strong Italian influence with pasta.
Bolivia: In Bolivia, a regionally popular form of empanada is known as a Saltena. The difference between traditional empanadas and the Saltena is that the stuffing in a Saltena is more liquid, often closely resembling a stew. The primary binder in a Saltena is gelatin, and the savory, fried dough is a national treasure.
Brazil: Influenced by regional ingredients and Portuguese cuisines, Brazil’s regional dish is the Feijoada. This dish, a combination stew made of meat and beans, has variations of flavor profiles and spices throughout the massive territory of Brazil.
Chile: The regional dish of Chile is the Pastel de Choclo, a corn-cake dish similar to meat casserole. Variations of the corn cake dish include toppings such as sliced eggs or olives and topped with a sprinkling of sugar.
Colombia: Bandeja Paisa is a family meal that is presented to an individual. Traditional Bandeja Paisa is loaded with meats, sausages, beans, rice, eggs, plantains, avocado, and fried pork belly. This dish is served for significant celebrations.
Costa Rica: In Central America, rice is a centerpiece of many dishes. The ubiquitous grain is a primary vehicle for carbohydrates and is mixed with proteins for a balanced meal. Gallo Pinto is the primary dish made from rice and beans with a regional sauce known as lizano.
El Salvador: Pupusas are the national dish of El Salvador, and this stuffed tortilla is a delicacy throughout the region. Made from stuffed masa, Pupusas are filled with beans and cheese to be the perfect on-the-go, filling meal.
Guatemala: The regional dish of Guatemala is a stew known as Pepian. This hearty meal is made by slowly roasting pumpkin seeds and peppers for hours before adding chicken stock and other ingredients. Often served with chicken and rice inside the Pepian, this stew is usually prepared for significant celebrations and served on cold nights in the mountainous regions.
Honduras: In Honduras, every celebration has Baleadas as part of the menu. Made with corn tortillas, the Baleadas is a cross between the quesadilla, taco, and pupusas, often stuffed with beans, onion, avocado, and cheese.
Mexico: One of the specialties in Mexican cuisine is the various sauces from guacamole, salsas, and mole. Throughout multiple parts of Mexico, mole is the sauce that is prepared for significant events. The type of celebration dictates matching the food to the kind of mole fit for the occasion. Some mole sauces are spicy, others savory, and some mildly sweet, but whatever the occasion, there is a mole to go with it!