1 GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND ENVIRONMENT
Argentina is a wedge-shaped country, the second largest (after Brazil) in
South America. In the west, it has the Andes Mountains, but the majority
of Argentina's land is low. Because Argentina lies in the Southern
Hemisphere, the winter months are May through August, and the warmest
summer month is January. Argentina's climate and rich, lowland
regions combine to make it one of the world's greatest
food-producing nations. More than 4 percent of the world's cattle
are raised by Argentine cattle ranchers. Argentina is also South
America's largest producer of honey, an ingredient that makes its
way into many delicious Argentine desserts.
2 HISTORY AND FOOD
Native Indians lived in Argentina many years before the European explorers
arrived. Members of an Indian tribe in the northern part of Argentina were
farmers who grew squash, melons, and sweet potatoes. Spanish settlers came
to Argentina in 1536. Between 1880 and 1890, nearly one million immigrants
came from Europe to live in Argentina. Most were from Italy and Spain. The
Italians introduced pizza, as well as all kinds of pasta dishes, including
spaghetti and lasagna. British, German, Jewish, and other immigrants also
settled in Argentina, all bringing their styles of cooking and favorite
foods with them. The British brought tea, starting the tradition of
teatime. All of these cultures influenced the dishes of Argentina.
3 FOODS OF THE ARGENTINES
Beef is the national dish of Argentina. There are huge cattle ranches in
Argentina, and the
or Argentine cowboy, is a well-known symbol of Argentine individualism.
Many dishes contain meat, but prepared in different ways. A favorite main
a mixed grill of steak and other cuts of beef. Grilled steak is called
, a beef roast cooked over an open fire is called
, and beef that is
dipped in eggs, crumbs, and then fried is called
is a stew that contains meat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and chunks of
corn on the cob.
Carbonada Criolla (Stew with Meat, Vegetables, and Fruit)
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds of stewing beef, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 4 large tomatoes, chopped thick
- 1 green pepper, chopped thick
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 cups canned chicken stock
- 3 potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes
- 3 sweet potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes
- 2 ears of corn, cut into 1-inch widths (or use 2 cups of frozen corn)
- 2 zucchini, diced into ½-inch pieces
- 2 peaches in ½-inch pieces
- 2 pears in ½-inch pieces
- Heat oil in heavy pot.
- Brown beef in separate batches so that all of it gets cooked. Remove
from the pot and set aside.
- In that same pot, cook tomatoes, pepper, onion, and garlic until soft.
- Add bay leaves, oregano, and chicken stock, and bring to a boil.
- Return beef to the pot, and add potatoes and sweet potatoes. Cover and
simmer 15 minutes.
- Stir in zucchini and corn. Simmer 10 more minutes, or until vegetables
are almost soft, then add the peaches and pears.
- Cook 5 more minutes.
- Serve hot.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Because many Argentines are descendents of the Italian immigrants who came
to Argentina in the late 1800s, Italian dishes are found throughout the
country. Some favorite Italian dishes include pizza, all kinds of pastas
(such as spaghetti and ravioli), and
, (gnocchi—potato dumplings) served with meat and tomato sauce.
Argentines eat more fruit than almost any other group of people in the
world. Some favorite fruits include peaches, apricots, plums, pears,
cherries, grapes, and
, the fruit of a prickly pear cactus.
, little pies usually stuffed with beef, vegetables, and cheese, are a
favorite dish. These are eaten by hand and they are often enjoyed as a
snack, or may be carried to school for lunch.
, a dipping sauce, is usually served with
. Because the sauce has to sit for two hours before eating, it is prepared
Chimichurri (Dipping Sauce)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- ⅓ cup fresh parsley, minced
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 shallots (or 2 small onions), minced
- 1 teaspoon minced basil, thyme, or oregano (or mixture of these, if
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for at least 2 hours
before serving with
Empanadas (Little Meat Pies)
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ cup onions, chopped
- 8 green olives, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- 2½ cups flour
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Brown the ground beef and onions in a frying pan until meat has lost all
its pink color.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Drain the mixture well, and allow it to cool.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a bowl, mix the flour, butter, egg, yolk, and vinegar together by
- Stir the salt into the water and sprinkle water, a little at a time,
over the flour mixture.
- Knead the dough until it is smooth. (To knead, flatten the dough on a
surface that has been dusted with a little flour. Fold the dough in half
and flatten again. Turn. Repeat the process for about 15 minutes.)
- For each
, roll ¼ cup of dough into a 9-inch circle.
- Put ½ cup filling on the circle, and fold it in half.
- Press the edges of the dough together, and poke a small hole in the top
using a toothpick. Place on a cookie sheet.
- Repeat process until all the dough and filling are used up.
- Bake 10–15 minutes.
- Serve hot with
Empanadas, homemade or purchased from a vendor, are popular for
lunches or as snacks.
4 FOOD FOR RELIGIOUS AND HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS
Lent is the 40-day period preceding Easter in the Christian year. During
the week before Lent, a large festival, Carnival, is celebrated in many
parts of Argentina. During Carnival, people dress up in costumes and
dance. They eat spicy food, including corn stew and
humitas en chala
(corn patties wrapped and cooked in their husks). It is a tradition to
eat a cake in the shape of a large ring. On Easter, children eat chocolate
eggs with tiny candies hidden inside.
Because it is also tradition in the Roman Catholic Church to not eat meat
during Lent, Argentines eat more seafood dishes during this time.
(finger sandwiches), made with shrimp are a popular lunch or snack food
Bocaditos (Finger Sandwiches)
- 12 thin slices French bread
- 1 container (3-ounce) cream cheese with chives
- ½ cucumber, thinly sliced
- 4 to 6 precooked shrimp
- 4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
- Cut crusts off the bread.
- Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on each slice of bread.
- Place cucumber slices, tomatoes, and shrimp on one slice, and cover with
another slice of bread to make a sandwich. (Any combination of these
ingredients may be used.)
- Cut into triangles or rectangles.
Serves 8 to 10.
On Christmas Eve, celebrated on December 24, Argentines eat a late meal of
cold beef, chicken, or turkey, and fruit salad. Because Christmas occurs
during summertime in South America, Argentines often eat the meal outside
on decorated tables. After dinner, they eat almonds, dried fruits, and
, a sweet bread that is similar to fruitcake but has fewer fruits and
Fruit Salad with Frozen Yogurt
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 medium apple, cored and chopped
- 1 medium plum, pitted and sliced
- 1 large orange, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds
- 1 large grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
- 1 medium banana, peeled and sliced into rounds
- 1 quart frozen vanilla yogurt
- In a large bowl, whisk together the honey and lemon juice.
- Stir in the fruit, and serve topped with a scoop of frozen yogurt.
Fruit salad offers a refreshing balance of sweet and tart flavors
with honey and lemon juice in the dressing, and a topping of sweet,
light frozen yogurt.
In many areas of Argentina, people hold festivals to honor aspects of the
environment. For example, a city on the Atlantic coast celebrates the
seafood harvest that is brought in from its fishing grounds. It is
tradition for people to eat a seafood feast of shrimp, crab, and scallops.
After the feast, a parade with people dressed in sea-creature costumes is
held. Someone dressed as The Queen of the Sea leads the parade, sitting in
a giant seashell.
5 MEALTIME CUSTOMS
Argentine families, like families everywhere, are busy. Because everyone
is on a different schedule, they aren't able to eat every meal
(day-sigh-OO-noh, breakfast) is often a light meal of rolls or bread with
jam and coffee. Most working people in the cities have a small
An Argentine fruit and vegetable vendor and her daughter greet
customers at a market.
(coh-MEE-dah, lunch) such as a pizza from a cafeteria. A farmer eats a
hot dish for lunch, carried out to him in the field, of beef, potatoes,
and chunks of corn-on-the-cob. Upper-class city families usually eat a
large midday meal of meat, potatoes, and green vegetables.
In the late afternoon, Argentines have a snack of tea, sandwiches, and
cake to hold over their appetite until dinner (
SAY-nah), typically eaten around 9
The tea-time tradition comes from the British immigrants that brought tea
to Argentina in the late 1800s.
Vendors sell food on the streets (the equivalent to "fast
food"). Ice cream vendors sell
Argentine ice cream, and warm peanuts, sweet popcorn, and candied apples.
Some vendors sell
(a sausage sandwich) and soda.
, little pies stuffed with beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables, are a
popular snack. Children can take vegetable-filled
to school for lunch. A favorite drink is a
, or milk with chocolate syrup.
Submarino (Milk with Chocolate Syrup)
- 1 glass of cold milk
- 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup
- Place the spoon with the syrup in the cold milk, but don't stir
- Drink a little milk, then lick some of the chocolate off the spoon.
- Continue until glass is empty.
The dinner meal has several courses, including meat dishes, and ends with
Dulce de leche
(milk jam) is a favorite dessert for many Argentine children. It is often
eaten with bananas or as a filling in
(corn starch cookies).
To make Dulce de Leche (milk jam), fill a pan with sweetened,
condensed milk and cover the pan with foil. Place it in a larger pan
with about one inch of water in it.
Dulce de Leche (Milk Jam)
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Pour the sweetened condensed milk into an 8-inch round pie or square
cake pan, and cover it with foil.
- Place the pan in a shallow pan filled with one inch of water. Bake for
- Allow to cool; eat with bananas or as a cookie filling.
Alfajores de Maizena (Corn Starch Cookies)
- 2½ cups cornstarch
- 1⅔ cups flour ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- Grated lemon peel
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Sift the cornstarch with the flour, baking soda and baking powder in a
- Beat margarine and sugar, and add the egg yolks one at a time. Mix well.
- Add dry ingredients a little at a time.
- Add vanilla and lemon peel. Mix to form a stiff, elastic dough.
- Stretch until the dough is about ½-inch thick over surface covered
- Cut into circles using the rim of a drinking glass or a round cookie
cutter and put the circles on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake for about 15 minutes. Let cool.
- Spread some
dulce de leche
on one cookie and sandwich with another cookie, and repeat with the
rest of the cookies.
6 POLITICS, ECONOMICS, AND NUTRITION
Most people in Argentina receive adequate nutrition in their diets,
although the World Bank classifies a small percentage as malnourished.
Almost three-fourths of the population has access to safe drinking water
and sanitation (hygienic conditions and safe disposal of waste products).
A small percent of children under age five are underweight (about 2
percent) or stunted (are short for their age, 5 percent). These children
from the poorest Argentine families, and may live in cities or rural
7 FURTHER STUDY
. Boston: APA Publications, 1997.
Buenos Aires: And the Best of Argentina Alive!
Edison, NJ: Hunter Publishing, Inc., 2000.
. New York: Children's Press, 1998.
Novas, Himilce and Silva, Rosemary.
Latin American Cooking Across the U.S.A.
New York: Knopf, 1997.
Cooking the South American Way
. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1991.
Argentina: A Wild West Heritage
. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Press, 1997.
Global Gourmet. [Online] Available
(accessed March 1, 2001).
Latin American Recipes. [Online] Available
(accessed March 6, 2001).
Margarita's Favorite Recipes. [Online] Available
(accessed February 24, 2001).