Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chi-chi-chi-le-le-le, viva Chile!

As luck would have it, I got to the C countries in September and when a very lost Latin American studies major (especially one who spent a year in Santiago) thinks about Chile in September, she immediately thinks: 18 de Septiembre (Chilean independence day)! It took a bit of googling, but I managed to track los Chilenos en Berlin down and indeed, las fiestas patrias were to be celebrated at the Statthaus Böcklerpark in Kreuzberg. In Chile, the 18 de Septiembre is celebrated with rodeos, carnivals, dancing the the cueca (the national dance of coquettish handkerchief waving), barbecues and other traditional fare. At the fiesta in Berlin, only the rodeo was missing. The relatively small Böcklerpark was pack with well over 100 Chileans and friends of Chile. The park was lined with stands selling almost all the Chilean hightlights: choripan, a chorizo sausage in a bun topped with pebre (the ubiquitous Chilean condiment: think non-spicy salsa fresca); ceviche; asado (a selection of grilled meat) with ensalada chilena (tomatoes and mild white onions); empanadas de pino (minced beef) and queso; completos (Chilean hotdogs with the works - my favorite is a completo italiano with mayonaise, avocado puree, and chopped tomatoes); churrascos (thin slices of steak on a bun with melted cheese (called a Barros Luco after the former president) or avocado, mayo, and tomatoes), pastel de choclo (similar to shepherd's pie with a sweet (too sweet in my opinion - and many Chileans sprinkle extra sugar before eating. yuck) cornmeal topping), cakes and the fried pastry calzones rotos. Of course there were also stands selling pisco sours (really excellent ones), piscolas (pisco with coke), and Chilean wine.

After a year in Chile, I was unbelievably sick of the cuisine. It's not the most diverse cuisine and my host-mother wasn't a very good cook. That said, after a ten-year break, it was a lot of fun to eat my way through Chile in the middle of Berlin. With a few exceptions: the food was quite good. It's hard to go wrong with a choripan, hot off the grill. And the completo took me right back to the completeria near La Moneda, except that it was even better with a German Wiener. We skipped the cheese empanadas as they were never my favorites, but the pino was very good - of course it should have been made with hand-chopped meat, but the crust was just right. The ceviche was simple, but refreshing and spicy and the asado took me back to so many Sunday barbecues with my host family. The pisco sours were a little pricy at 5 Euros for a small glass, but they were so very delicious, nobody seemed to mind. As you can tell, we did a pretty good job of sampling just about everything. We did skip the paella (why?) and the pastel de choclo because I never could get behind that much sugar with my ground beef. I was a little disappointed in the dessert table. Most of them looked more German than Chilean, with the exception of pay de limon and the calzones rotos, but how is it that there wasn't any manjar (the Chilean word for dulce de leche) to be found? Not a single alfajor? Weeks later and I'm still craving it.

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