While in the northern hemisphere, people are snuggling closer to warm fireplaces and bundling up before going outside, here in Chile we are enjoying the long days of summer. Summertime for many Chilean means trips to the beaches and mountains, to the north and south, to visit family and share meals. Here’s some of what we’re eating and drinking in the summertime in Chile.
Choripan is the rightful prize to anyone who arrives on time to a barbecue. Before large cuts of meat are grilled whole, people usually put sausage on the grill, and toast up some marraqueta (similar to French bread) to serve them in. This is also a good excuse to try out the pebre. Pebre is a fresh salsa made of onions, tomatoes and a slight kick of something spicy. Eating a choripan loaded with pebre is a great way to kick off an asado (barbecue). If you arrive late, you’re likely to miss the choripan, but there’s always plenty to eat at a Chilean barbecue, and there will very likely be loads of pebre there as well.
It comes as a surprise to many visitors to Chile that the most popular salad here does not have any lettuce in it. It’s a deceptively simple salad of tomatoes and onions, both of which grow well in the central region. This salad is made with beefsteak tomatoes, which are in their prime in the summer, juicy and sweet. We always rinse the onions to dampen their flavor a bit, making them more crunch than bite. At a communal meal in Chile, there are often many salads on the table, but the “Chilean salad” or ensalada chilena will almost always make an appearance. And when ordering a meal out, if you have to choose just one salad to accompany your main dish, ensalada chilena goes with pretty much everything.
This is a layered dish not dissimilar to a shepherd’s pie. It has seasoned ground beef (and sometimes chicken) on the bottom, studded with raisins and olives, topped with eggs, and then covered with a creamy layer of cooked corn. It’s a bit labor-intensive, and people consider it a special occasion to make it at home, and therefore often eat it out of the house. At a restaurant it would often be served in an individual terra cotta bowl, piping hot and crisp on the edges. It might seem strange to have such a hearty dish in summer, but that’s when corn is in season, time is most plentiful, and you can take a nap any time you like. Some people sprinkle sugar on top before baking it, which gives it a beautiful golden brown color.
This Chilean snack/dessert defies seasons, since it is made with dried wheat kernels and dried, reconstituted peaches. But it’s served icy cold, out of a tall tumbler, which means it’s particularly well-suited to summer. In Santiago, it’s a classic summertime afternoon activity to go to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, whether by bike, on foot or up the funicular or cable cars, and get a tall glass of this sweet punch. But in plazas and parks all over Chile, this is a popular afternoon snack, and you can often find people sitting down with a glass, scooping out the tender wheat and dried peaches with a spoon before drinking the juice left behind.
Clery or clérico makes the most of two of Chile’s most famed products, wine, and fruit. It is a simple way to combine them both, with chilled white wine topped with freshly macerated strawberries or other fruit. If you’re visiting in a slightly cooler season, or simply prefer red wine, there is another, similar preparation that you might also choose. This is called borgoña, and like clery, is generally served in a pitcher and meant to be shared with friends.