Monday, June 13, 2011

What's cooking?

Food and what we eat is not only a question of where in the world we live, it's also a question of cultural values and traditions, which sometimes really don't have anything to do with much.

We spent some time in Minnesota in the USA, and Granada in the south of Spain, and cooking was sometimes difficult for reasons we wouldn't have foreseen in a million years. So, for you to bear in mind if you're coming to Uruguay (or the south of Brazil, or Argentina for that matter), or simply to think about it, here are a few things you'll typically find in a kitchen in Uruguay.

1. We seem to nurse an unrequited love for ice cream containers, which are found pretty much everywhere. Pictured: under the sink container waiting for an hydraulic disaster coming from the sink.

I say the love is unrequited because oftentimes they're not up to the task assigned.

2. Butane gas bottles. They're the source of heat of choice and they're usually located in plain sight next to the stove. Ours in hidden under the sink, making company to the ice cream container.

They don't grow on trees so one needs to know what to do when the contents end.

3. While newer stoves models contain some flickering system, most people don't own a newer model. So the matches are very common.

When we lived in Minnesota in a rental home, we weren't aware of that system being available in our stove so we bought a lot of matches we never used. Silly us.

4. Oregano. The best selling dried herb in local markets. We were a little surprised and bereft when we couldn't find it that easily in Spanish or Minnesotan markets.

Tarragon, thyme and rosemary just aren't the same.

5. Repurposed containers. Pictured: a cookie jar containing cocoa powder, a jam jar containing oregano, a Nescafé bottle containing bread zippers (here they are not a clamp, they're a little wire coated in plastic and I collect them, just in case I need them some time).

If you're a guest, be ready for spending some time guessing what's where.

6. Cothespins. The weather allows to air dry clothes year round (unless it rains, of course), so clothespins are a common household item. They're usually found applied ad nauseam in the kitchen. Pictured: seasalt, confetti, baking powder.

7. Crandon's cooking book. The quintessential uruguayan cooking book, it's brilliantly written and the recipes reflect the local taste well, but don't require any exclusive local ingredient. Matter of fact, many recipes are of anglosaxon tradition.

Mine was a wedding gift, and I think my mom's was too. I know my grand mother's wasn't, but it was one of the first editions and I wish I had claimed it when I had the chance.

8. Accoutrements for red meat preparation. Uruguay being one of the top consumers of red meat per capita in the world, the required equipment to prepare a good steak, stew, barbeque or meatloaf are typically found in home kitchens.

The knife point tells I'm not very good at storing my wares.

9. Milk is sold exclusively in one liter (1 qt) plastic bags. While some people transfer the milk into a better looking container, most people simply put the bag into a jar. Also, the bags containing red are for whole milk, and the blue or green are for skimmed milk.

But don't worry, the jars are sold in markets and cost barely above a liter or two of milk.

10. A friend from Chile said he was surprised Uruguayans don't seem too fond of sweets unless it's dulce de leche or quince jam.

In that case, there is no limits for sweetness.


Update: If you found me from I link I posted in Chez Larsson, welcome, thank you, and know that I've never done that before or plan on doing it again ever.


Judith said...

Fun! Saw your link on Chez Larsson and had to see what you had in your kitchen ;)

Now I'm dying for dulce de leche...

Julia said...

Hey Judith, welcome and thank you for the visit! What's in your kitchen that's typical of where you live?

I just can't understand how dulce de leche hasn't taken over the world. It's so delicious and simple (it's just milk and sugar).

Judith said...

Oh, it's wonderful but I'm scared to make it! Don't you have to boil a can of evaporated milk or something? I don't get how it doesn't explode.

My kitchen...well, I live in Sweden but we're just back from a trip to my home in Texas so right now my kitchen's full of American candy and a couple cake mixes :). But I have picked up a couple things from the US that I can't find here, like a pastry...thing...that you work the butter into the flour with, and beyond the kitchen I can't live without my Fieldcrest bath towels.

Linda said...

I am a Chez Larsson reader but I thought it would be nice to be updated about Uruguayan kitchen stuff! I live in Holland, and it's funny, but 40 years ago we also had those bags of milk over here! Now they are replaced by cartons.
I think most people in Holland have in their kitchen:
1. Potatoes - Dutch staple food
2. A tool to scrape jars and cartons so as not to waste any food
3. Cheese (Gouda or Edam)
Dutch cuisine is not very interesting (potatoes, cabbage, sausage) so most people are well acquainted with pizza, pasta, Asian food (from former colony Indonesia) and other things.

Julia said...

Judith, so your kitchen shows where you've been, not just where you are.

Linda, that we use something you used to use 40 years ago is eloquent, I think (we're frozen in time in a couple of aspects). The scrapping tool is interesting - I didn't know, though it makes sense, Dutch people feelings toward tossing good food.

Julia said...

ah, and the dulce de leche... I saw this recipe once but I'm not sure it yields the real thing. I'm sorry I can't help you much with that, Judith, I either have uruguayan or argentinean dulce de leche (not the brazilian one, which is gooey) or I live without.

Judith said...

Oh well let me take a look at that recipe - thanks!