After arriving in Chile, we worked our way up the coast from Bahía Inglesa to Arica, on the border of Peru. Because we spent so much of our time here camping on the beach, I haven’t done a great job of chronicling our comidas. I’ve been too busy wondering if I will ever get all of the sand off of my person and possessions. (Answer: no, never).
But there have been good eats. Lots of good eats. These are the highlights.
In Juan Lopez, a small beach town just north of Antofagasta and its iconic Portada, we crowded into a roadside stall to devour delicious fried fish with sides of rice and ensalada chilena, a basic salad of sliced tomatoes, white onions, and chopped parsley. The fish, reineta, was a mild white variety fried in a light cumin seasoning. We thoroughly approved.
Then we took an inland detour to hit San Pedro de Atacama, a pueblo in the Atacama desert that is surrounded by natural wonders including fields full of bubbling geysers, enormous salt flats, hot springs, and a better view of the stars than I ever imagined possible. In between bouts of grilling and sandwich-making, we hit the pedestrian street Calle Caracoles for dinner and had an excellent goat cheese and tomato appetizer served simmering in olive oil with garlic, onions and thyme from Casa de Piedra.
Because I’m a big fat fan of big fat sandwiches, I had to try one of the most common sammies being hawked by the corner shops and street vendors: the churrasco completo, loaded with thinly sliced beef, cheese, tomato, mayo, avocado, and chucrut (basically sauerkraut). It’s greasy, it’s messy, it’s everything I demand from a big fat sandwich. Well done, Chilenos!
I definitely embrace the Chilean love of avocado. In addition to being eaten by the slice, puré de palta (pureed avocado) is a go-to condiment that lines the sandwich counters in pump canisters alongside ketchup and mayo, gracing hot dogs, hamburgers and fries alike. I’m pretty sure that when I reflect on Chilean cuisine in the future, the two foodstuffs that will forever come to mind are avocado and mayonnaise. On everything.
And of course, no meal would be complete without trying some new vinos. We discovered carménère, a member of the cabernet family that used to be produced exclusively in Bordeaux, France but now Chile boasts the world’s largest area planted with the variety. It’s a medium-bodied, deep crimson wine often used for blending, but in its pure form has a cherry-like, fruity flavor with spicy undertones that we found really appealing. Salud!
Today we’re heading into Peru, where I’m looking forward to drowning in pisco and ceviche and hopefully avoiding any more bouts of altitude sickness. As I learned in San Pedro de Atacama, 4,500 meters above sea level can make a tummy feel no bueno. Wish me luck!