News / Food

Barriga Llena, Corazon Contento

Tu dices baile, yo digo dance! Across Latin America and across Latinos in America, the diversity of the Spanish language reflects it’s people(s). Arguments about the correct way to eat a mango, who invented salsa, who makes the best gallo pinto, or whether it’s chevere, guay, or bacano…are el pan de cada dia.

Jitomate, or tomate, us Remezcleros are loving the the dynamics and the straight-up hilarious words and phrases that we come across, some of which are truly ridiculous but totally validated by culture and lore.

Continuing on with our new dichos and slang dictionary, and with Thanksgiving just over and the Christmas season around the corner, this week the theme is comida!

With the holidays approaching food suddenly becomes of utmost importance. Kitchens, crowded with family and steamy with the smell of coriander, cilantro and maiz, are where tamales and pozole are made to a perfection. Chicos, it’s time to loosen your belts a knotch, get to chopping cabbage and chiles til’ you’re weeping, and work up a serious appetite. We won’t mention getting busy with the alcohol, we know you’re already on it. (Hangover? see our Hangover Helper article).

One Word, Many Meanings:

Bolsas o Fundas? :In many Latin countries, and in the bodegas across the U.S. there has been a lot of confusion and often embarrassment when it comes to shopping bags. Many Latinos use the word “bolsa” for bag, while to others, such as Dominicanos, this word vulgarly refers to a male sexual organ. Tip: if you’re in a Dominican neighborhood, be sure to use the word “fundas” instead.

Platano: Getting down to the fried and fruity stuff. Whether thin and crispy, twice fried, once smashed, rolled in sugar, salt or chile: all hail the Maduro Plantain. But of course, plain old “platano” just won’t do. Check out the numerous names for this truly beloved fruit, prepared in many different ways:

Patacones (Colombia)

Tostones (El Salvador)

Platanutres (Puerto Rico)

Chifles (Ecuador)

Tajadas (Honduras)

Mariquitas (Cuba)

Arroz y Frijoles, Are we married to the stuff?

When it comes to rice and beans, many Latin countries take it very seriously. In fact, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, who boast a very similar cuisines, have been fighting for years over their national dish of gallo pinto (spotted rooster). The neighbors have even held heated cook-offs to prove who does it biggest and best. While Costa Rica uses black beans, and Nicaragua red beans, both find it imperative that the rice and beans be a good day old. These vital ingredients are then mixed together and fried in salty oil with bell peppers and cilantro and served (strictly for breakfast) with sour cream, deep fried eggs and plantains.

Nearly every country in Latin America, particularly in the more tropical regions, has their own recipe for rice and beans, which these days in Latin America is synonymous to “daily bread.” Here’s a few versions:

Panama & El Salvador: Casamiento

Venezuela: Pabelon Criollo

Peru: Tacu Tacu

Costa Rica: Casado

Cuba & Spain: Moros y Cristianos, or Arroz Moro

Puerto Rico: Arroz con habichuelas


Truly Weird Dishes/Specialties; They’re not your Pets Anymore:

Take a stroll through the markets of Managua, Nicaragua, and you will surely come across loads of what looked like skinned raccoons, as well as live iguanas with their feet and mouths tied, piled up in plastic buckets without refrigeration. Yup, in Nicaragua, iguanas, known for their aphrodisiacal powers, are part of the typical Nica cuisine, cooked in a stew called “sopa de garrobo” especially around Easter time. Although prohibited by law, other Central American countries also like to steam up a pot of iguana, which they call “gallinas de palo” wonder why? Tastes just like chicken!

A bit further south in the Andes of Ecuador and Peru, another common U.S. family friend, the guinea pig, is roasted and chowed down as a common snack (head, paws, and all). This Ecuadorian equivalent of fried chicken, called “Cuy” (pronounced Kwee), is also used in indigenous medicine and folklore often serving as an x-ray, absorbing any maladies a patient may have.

How about the Mexican chapulines (grasshoppers) found in Oaxaca, or gusanos (worms) found to flavor a bottle of Mezcal? Hormigas de sabores anyone? We know, it’s an acquired taste.

Si Fuera Comida:

Camaron – Inexperienced person (Ecuador)

Estar mas salado que un cubito de Maggi – To be very unlucky (literally to be as salty as a bullion) (Costa Rica)

Mala leche - Bad luck (Venezuela)

Achumarse – To get drunk (Ecuador)

Corazon de melon - Sweetheart (Cuba)

Ser un fresa - To be stuck up, spoiled or preppy, and own expensive material goods. (Mexico, and all over)

Arroz con mango - a bad mixture (Costa Rica)

Some Old school (Food) Dichos:

En mesa ajena, la tripa llena = One another’s bill, eat your fill.

A la boca amarga, la miel le sabe retame = To a bitter mouth, honey tastes sour.

El mas chimuelo masca rieles = The one with the fewest teeth eats rails (The thinnest eats the most: don’t underestimate anyone)

Solo la cuchara sabe lo que hay dentro de la olla = Only the spoons knows what’s inside the pot (everyone knows his own thoughts)

No hay mejor salsa que el hambre = Hunger is the best sauce

Contigo, pan y cebolla = With you, bread and onions (I’ll stick by you through thick and thin)


Photo: Chicharron by Stephanie Hartka