Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gastro-Geographical Linguistic Tour of Latin America

Mexico was the first Latin country I ever lived in. I loved Mexico because they make some great foods! I loved the enchiladas and mole! The tacos and quesadillas. I loved it all! But after  I spent a year in language school in Mexico I assumed I could speak Spanish in any Latin America country and it would all be understood. I made sure to learn the names of my favorite foods, because, well, food is very important to me!

So I knew a 'torta' was a sandwich and a  'tortilla' was a flour or corn flat bread. Beans were frijoles. I love to drink coke so I knew to ask for 'coca'. Pop corn, a good snack, is 'palomitas' which is easily remembered because it mean 'little doves'.

Good to go!

And then I moved to Venezuela. Suddenly, a 'torta' was not a sandwich but a cake! A' tortilla' was an omelet and beans were 'caraotas'. Oh yeah,' tacos'? Those are soccer cleats! Not tasty at all!

I learned new words for my favorite foods. 'Lomito' was  the best cut of beef.' Pasteles' were pastries. 'Perico' was scrambled eggs with onions, tomatoes, and peppers. I loved the 'panes with mantequilla' (bread and butter). Also it is best not to ask for coca! It is sold by the kilo and is a white powdery substance... one must ask for a 'refresco'. And popcorn is 'cotufa', so no more little doves.

Then I visited Costa Rica. I asked for a 'torta' and they said,"QUEQUE" (what? what?). I asked again, "Torta, por favor" and they handed me some cake, but said, "QUEQUE". Oh, like 'Cake' but said in Spanish. Gotcha! And passion fruit is not parchita but maracuya. ok then...

Then I moved to Paraguay where my favorite legumes are not 'frijoles' nor 'caraotas' but...habichuleas or porotos. But 'porotos' confuses me because here the popcorn is 'pororo'  Passion fruit, which I knew as 'parchita' or 'maracuya', is mburucuya. If I want bread and butter, I have to ask for cookies with lard! 'Galletas con manteca' is 'pan con mantequilla' (bread and butter).

Confused yet?

If I want a good steak, I don't ask for a 'lomito' because that will be a sandwich.  And a 'mixto', which in Venezuela would be a sandwich with beef, pork and chicken, is just a plain ham and cheese on  bread here.  'Perico', the scrambled eggs is' Bandera espanola'... but who wants to eat a Spanish flag???

Then we come to the 'yerba'! The 'weed' everyone uses every day in large amount. Its sold on the grocery store shelves and even strangers on the street will offer you free weed. In Venezuela 'yerba' is an illegal substance usually smoked by teens!  And no 'coca' or 'refresco' here, its a 'gaseosa' which sounds a bit repulsive!

And now we come to live on the border with Argentina where everything is different yet again. 'Yerba' isn't yerba but 'mate' and it must be hot and have sugar added!

When my husband went to the coffee shop in Argentina he ordered his usual 'cafe'.

"Would you like that with a  factura ( bill/check)?" they asked him.

"Well, yes, but when I am finished." he said.

"But Senor, don't you want your factura now, while your coffee is still hot?" They politely insisted.

"Ok, but I may wish to order a second cup of coffee and you will have to add it to my bill." he replies.

And then the waiter brings him his coffee and a pastel (pastry) which is called a 'factura' (bill/check).

And yes, it would be best eaten with the hot coffee after all!


  1. Love, Love, Love it! Can't stop laughing... I have not been to that many Latin American countries myself, but have experienced the same thing with the diversity of Latino's here in the States.

  2. La yucca and mandioca... :) And I think pomelo is said differently elsewhere too.

  3. Great post! I remember thinking how prepared I would be after a few years of college Spanish in Ohio. I moved and then married into a Spanish speaking family and I realized I did not speak Spanish at all. Dialects, colloquialisms and such exist in every language and so I began learning all over again.

  4. And if you ask for a piña you will get a punch in the nose instead of an ananá. Cute article. I can relate!

  5. Rita, we often talk about the different foods from country to country. I loved the reminder of the Venezuelan foods. We got a food laugh reading this. Thanks for your thoughts. Love this

  6. Rita, we often talk about the different foods from country to country. I loved the reminder of the Venezuelan foods. We got a food laugh reading this. Thanks for your thoughts. Love this