THE TABLE: Chile, South America

Photo by Free Images 
The Chilean flag
Photo by Free Images The Chilean flag
Photo by Free Images 
A view of downtown Santiago, the capital of Chile
Photo by Free Images A view of downtown Santiago, the capital of Chile

The country of Chile that is located on the Pacific Ocean’s western coast of South America is often pronounced as Chilly (like the weather), but to be correct, it is pronounced “Chil-ay.”

There at least seven climates in this Southern Hemisphere country, due to the unusual land mass area it covers. The country is 2,653 miles long and only 109 miles across, for a total of 291,930 square miles. It borders Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and the Drake Passage. About 480,000 square miles of the Antarctica is claimed by Chile.

The Spanish conquered and colonized the area in the mid-16th century. Chile established its independence in 1818 and became known as a driving force by 1844. In 1891, redistribution between its President and Congress to establish a democracy led to the Chilean War. Later a war with Argentina led to conflict with a navel arms race.

Due to the remote distance, Chile was not a really good destination for European immigrants. The Spanish were the only major group to undertake the travel to this far off land. Smaller groups to follow were Austrians and Dutch. Chile never held the attraction to the Germans as did Argentina and other South American countries. Intermarriage between Europeans and local Chileans led to a mix of cultures and races. Chile is a stable and prosperous country and because of economical standards has become a magnet for neighboring Argentina, Bolivia and especially Peru.

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Spanish is the language of Chile with several minority languages added to the mix. Most indigenous languages have become close to extinction. The currency in Chile is the Peso (GLP). Motor vehicles are driven on the right side of the road.

As mentioned, the seven climates in Northern Chile are due to the arid Atacama Desert with great copper fields. The central area (most populated area) is the agricultural, cultural and political center of Chile. Southern Chile hosts forests, grazing lands, volcanoes and lakes. It is also made up of inlets, canals, peninsulas and islands.

Chile, being in the Southern Hemisphere, has reversed seasons to what we know. The summer months of Chile are December, January, February and March with an average temperature greater than 80 degrees. The coldest months are June, July and August. July is the rainiest month.

Santiago is the capital and, along with other cities, has a high level of air and water pollution, the cause being the deforestation, which is characterized by the cutting down of trees and leads to soil erosion.

It was the Native contribution of corn that had impact on the foods of Chile. The Spanish brought grapes, olives, nuts, rice, wheat, sugar and spices, as well as garlic - along with preference of meats and cheeses. The Germans did contribute rich pastries and cakes.

Most families in Chile eat together and at home. Restaurant dining is only for special occasions. Breakfast consists of toast and milk. Lunch is the large meal of the day. Most businesses close for three hours for lunch – to go home and eat with the family and take a nap, known as a siesta.

Restaurants can range from snack bars to expensive dining. A favorite “fast food” is a “Completo,” similar to a hot dog with mustard, avocado, tomato and mayonnaise, washed down by “Ponche,” a Chilean punch.

The time honored tradition of “tea-time” was introduced by British immigrates in the late 1880s and early 1900s. It is still popular today to have friend over for tea and coffee, served along with rich pastries and cakes introduced by the Germans.

Tea-For-Two

Fill two cups with boiling water one third full. Place tea bags into cups and allow to steep for five minutes. Fill it to the top with milk that has just reached a boiling point. Add sugar to taste.

Pastel de Jalea Cremosa (Chilean Creamy Jelly Cake)

• 1 box yellow cake mix

• 1 cup jelly of choice

• 2 cups of pastry cream

Prepare cake mix according to recipe on package. Use 2 – 10” round baking pans. After cake has cooled, remove from the pans. Slice each layer horizontally into two separate layers – for a total of four layers. Place one layer on plate; spread some of pastry cream followed by jelly - alternating pastry cream and jelly. Cover top and sides with remaining pastry cream. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.

Pastry Cream Recipe*

• 2 cups whole milk

• 1 tablespoon vanilla Extract

• 5 egg yolks

• 1 cup sugar

• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Simmer the milk in saucepan for 5 minutes then cover. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until light yellow. Stir in flour and pour hot milk over egg mixture. Beat continuously with a whisk. Pour entire mixture back into saucepan, bringing to a slow simmer – then lower the heat and cook for 2 more minutes, constantly stirring. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and butter; pour cream mixture into a bowl. Cover until ready to use.

*A butter cream icing can replace the pastry cream.

Chilean Tomato & Corn Stew (Tomatican)

• 1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped

• 3 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 3 large plum tomatoes, peeled & diced

• 1 cup fresh/frozen corn kennels

• Pinch of fresh parsley, chopped

• Salt & pepper to taste

In hot olive oil: sauté onions and then garlic, add tomatoes, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add corn and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste, sprinkling parsley over top. Best served hot, but it is also good cold.

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Let me hear from you: banjack303@verizon.net. Search YouTube for Look Who’s Cooking as well as phoenixvillenews.com for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.”