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JP: Cuisines of the Spanish-Speaking World. Welcome, everyone, to All About Spanish lesson, number 7. My name is JP and I’m here with Fernando.
Fernando: Hello everyone.
JP: Hey Fernando. So this is one of my favorite topics today.
Fernando: Tell me about it.
JP: [Laughter] He’s lookin’ at my belly. But I don’t mind, I like food, Fernando. Unlike the skinny people over here in the studio.
Fernando: [Laughter] Who are you talking about?
JP: I don’t know… But there’s definitely a lot to talk about when we mention food of the Spanish speaking world, right?
Fernando: Yes, absolutely, we can go from high-end to simple, basic, beautiful organic food.
JP: And we’re talking about a huge geographical area. We’re talking about Spain (where they also speak Spanish); North America (like Mexico); all the way south to the tip of Argentina.
Fernando: Yes, la patagonoia…
JP: All of those regions have different cuisines. And some of them are spectacular!
Fernando: They are!
JP: Ok, so I don’t know about you but my favorite food of Latin America is Mexican.
Fernando: I agree with you…
JP: There seems to be a huge diversity of cooking and of ingredients in Mexico; it’s just a delicious place to eat.
Fernando: It is a unique place to eat where maiz, fish, meat, they all converge to make delicious cuisine.
JP: Allright, I know here in New York Spanish cuisine and Peruvian cuisine are totally in fashion right now.
Fernando: Yes, that is true, actually, and you’ve touched on two countries that have a couple of my favorite dishes:
JP: Oh yeah?
Fernando: Yeah. Perú, world-renowned for their ceviche, and of course Spain, known for their amazing paella.
JP: Now we’re gonna talk about that later in the podcast. You’re gonna give us your five must-tried dishes, right?
Fernando: Absolutely.
JP: Now before we do that, I wanna talk a little about table etiquette in the Spanish speaking world whether eating at a restaurant, or if you’re eating at somebody’s house like with a home-stay (when I was in Guatemala I stayed in a home-stay.) There are definitely things you need to know when you sit down at that table, right?
Fernando: Yes, there are a cultural niceties that are observed when eating in the Spanish speaking world… So if you’re eating at a private home at your aunt’s or at your friend’s family place, it’s custom to wait for the owner of the house to begin eating…
JP: Ok…
Fernando: … Before everyone starts.
JP: So once they put food in their mouth then you can start eating yourself…
Fernando: Right. So, more often than not, the beginning of a meal will be signaled by someone saying provecho. Or buen provecho.
JP: Provecho… Buen provecho… What does this mean?
Fernando: This is basically the spanish equivalent of “enjoy your meal” or “bon appetit”.
JP: Ok…
Fernando: So the appropriate response is “Gracias” or “Igualmente”, or you can repeat what they said…
JP: Which is buen provecho.
Fernando: Exactly.
JP: Ok, if ten people are sitting around the table, one person’s gonna say “Buen provecho”, and everybody else is going to say “Gracias”, “Buen provecho”, “Igualmente”…
Fernando: Yes.
JP: And then you can eat.
Fernando: And then you can eat, yes. However, in Guatemala, the custom is reversed…
JP: Yes! I learned this the hard way.
Fernando: Well tell me about that!
JP: Ok, when we started eating in Guatemala I would say “Buen provecho” and they’d say “Mmm-hmmm…” and then we’d all eat, and when everybody was done with the meal somebody would say “Gracias” and then everyone would say “Buen provecho.”
Fernando: [break] That’s interesting.
JP: Yeah, I was totally like, “Wow, I should write a paper about this.”
Fernando: Yes, yes. It’s true.
JP: [Laughter] But in Mexico it’s the other way, right; you say “Buen provecho” at the beginning.
Fernando: Yes, exactly.
JP: I think that’s the standard for most of the Spanish speaking world.
Fernando: I think so too.
JP: Ok, so that’s an important tip. Do you have another tip for us?
Fernando: Well, actually it’s very customary in Spanish speaking countries, after you’re done with dinner (or a meal), there is the ‘sobremesa’.
JP: La sobremesa…
Fernando: Yes. The sobremesa basically entails having coffee, extending the conversation, extending the person’s stay. So this is a perfect opportunity for language learners to experience and participate in real Spanish conversations in an intimate setting.
JP: So when you’re done eating you stay at that table…
Fernando: You stay at the table, yes.
JP: You don’t get up and say, “Can I be excused?,” and run away.
Fernando: That’s correct; you don’t get up and run away.
JP: Ok. Now how long does that sobremesa usually last?
Fernando: It can last a lifetime (for some.)
JP: [Laughter] It can?
Fernando: It can.
JP: You feel like you’re sitting there forever.
Fernando: But that’s the beauty of it because you’re having great conversation with great people. So there’s a reason to stay there. Obviously you’ll be offered a coffee, or digestif, or whatever… You’ll have cake, dessert… There are a few perks of staying at the sobremesa, definitely.
JP: Ok. And you know what? That’s where I learned a lot of my Spanish.
Fernando: Well there you go!
JP: Just hanging out and being polite with people.
Fernando: That’s where I learned to be polite, actually.
JP: Ok, at the table…. Allright Fernando, why don’t you give us your five must-try dishes from the Spanish speaking world.
Fernando: Absolutely. Representing Argentina, el churrasco.
JP: El churrasco.
Fernando: Yes. Churrasco is used all over Latin America to refer to grilled meat. And Argentinians are known for their love of grilling.
JP: They’re always, always bragging about their meat, right? Their beef.
Fernando: Their ‘bife’… Yes, exactly. In Argentina churrasco refers to a grilled cut of skirt steak, accompanied by chimichurri which is a dressing of vinegar, oil, parsley, garlic and red pepper flakes or paprika… It can vary.
JP: So chimichurri… That’s kind of like the Argentinian version of pesto.
F0: Exactly. And it’s not spicy, it just gives it a nice tingly taste. It’s delicious. It goes well with almost anything, actually.
JP: When’s the last time you had churrasco?
Fernando: Too long ago.
JP: How about a dish from one of the Caribbean nations?
Fernando: El mofongo. From Puerto Rico (Puelto Lico)
JP: [Laughter] Ok, so what is ‘el mofongo’?
Fernando: Well, if you’ve never tried this dish of fried plantains and pork grind, you may find it exotic. But, at the same time very, very comforting.
JP: You know, I’m a big fan of pork grinds and plantains, actually.
Fernando: These two items go together deliciously… You also flavor it with garlic and olive oil. Mofongo can be stuffed with vegetables, meats, seafood, and is often served with bits of fried bacon and chicken broth. Anyways, so now that we’re on Puerto Rico, let me tell you about this other item which is ceviche.
JP: But that’s not from Puerto Rico.
Fernando: It’s not from Puerto Rico, but it’s from another country that starts with a P. Peru. Now ceviche itself is a way of curing seafood in citrus juice rather than cooking it in heat.
JP: Oh, ok. Now this kind of spooks some people, but it’s not cooked over fire… It’s just cured.
Fernando: There are variations of ceviche you can find Mexico, Perú, Colombia…
JP: So why do we say it’s Peruvian?
Fernando: It’s how they make it. In Perú , ceviche is served with slices of cooked sweet potato and the juice from the ceviche marinade as an appetizer.
JP: So they drain out the juice…
Fernando: And they drain out the juice which is called leche de tigre.
JP: Ok, leche de tigre is like tiger milk. And they give it to you like at the beginning when you sit down at the restaurant. You order ceviche, they bring out the shot of leche de tigre, you do the shot and are like, “Ooohh, this is delicious!” And then later on the ceviche comes.
Fernando: It opens up your appetite. It is absolutely wonderful.
JP: Do you have a ceviche recipe?
Fernando: I do have a ceviche recipe, but if I were to share it right now, I would probably be eating my arm afterwards… I am very hungry.
JP: [Laughter] Why don’t we move on to your next favorite must-eat dish.
Fernando: Paella.
JP: Ok, this is obviously from Spain.
Fernando: So it’s the short grained rice dish prepared in an open pan…
JP: The big ‘paellera’. It’s like a wok but flatter.
Fernando: Exactly. And bigger… There are paella contests throughout the world. It is wonderful. If you have the opportunity, go to one. You will not be disappointed.
JP: Now the one we all know about is the paella valenciana, from Valencia. It’s got that saffron rice (that yellow color), and there’s meat, and vegetables, and seafood. They put escargot in it and sometimes they put camarones (the prauns)…
Fernando: Yeah, it varies from region to region. But you can imagine meat, seafood, chicken… It’s just wonderful. I mean, we’re talking about great diversity, which actually represents the diversity in Spain.
JP: That’s true. Now I had some friends that threw me a ‘paellada’ as a going-away party the last time I moved, and the paella they made was very different from the one you usually see in the restaurant. They were basque people and they made it with a bunch of seafood, you know, like clams and mussels… Oh, it was so good.
Fernando: Oh, that sounds delicious; I bet it was…
JP: It really was. Ok, you’ve got one more must-eat dish, right?
Fernando: And this one is for all of us Mexicans..
JP: [Laughter] How could I have guessed this that this was going to be Mexican?
Fernando: I wish there was just one… I’m only asking for one place in New York that could have tacos al pastor... Oh my god, it is delicious.
JP: So this is when you see the rotisserie, you know, like sometimes you see gyros on a rotisserie or shwarma…
Fernando: And it’s very typical; it’s very accessible. You’ll see it on almost every corner, and you’ll see it in restaurants, and taquerías… It is just amazing.
JP: Right, and it’s always pork, and on top of the big pork rotisserie there’s always a pineapple, right? And they slice off that pineapple and it falls into your taco…
Fernando: That is correct… If you haven’t had an opportunity to see how a taco al pastor is prepared, do it.
JP: Yeah, go to youtube right now and look up tacos al pastor! Ok, so the pork, the pineapple, they go into the soft tortillita…
Fernando: You can douse it with any of the salsas that you have available.
JP: This is very simple street food but for some reason it’s like a revelation when people first try tacos al pastor… And they’re cheap!
FO: They are, they are… I think the lime juice you squirt onto the tacos is more expensive than paying for a taco.
JP: Now I know when I was a teacher and I took students to Mexico they would want three tacos al pastor, and order three, and of course they’d get nine. Because there’s three tacos al pastor in an order.
Fernando: Exactly. Yeah, and that’s basically how you want it to happen. You will proabbly want to order fifteen just for the next day. It is so delicious… I am dying of hunger!
JP: Fernando has to get out of here because he is sweating he’s so hungry at this point. So thanks for listening to All About Spanish 7. We’ll be back in the next podcast with All About Spanish 8. It’s time to go. Hasta luego.
Fernando: Bye-bye.