Your newgringostomach may occasionally ask you please ply it with yummy crunchy fresh-from-the-oven pizza bites or whathaveyou. In my case, I never really ate much of that food in the states, tiny quiches from Costco at the occasional novice art opening notwithstanding.
There is some convenience food in Chile. I can think of one of those packs that has yogurt on one side and cereal on the other, though in such tiny quantities of each that it kind of seems like a breakfast appetizer. There are frozen pizzas that turn into a soup of non-mozarrella cheese soup in your oven, boxed lasagna (don’t get the veggie one, it tastes like a pile of delicious paste, minus the delicious). There are also frozen patties of beef, turkey, salmon etc. Not with the bun and everything, not precooked, just patties. If you were jonesing for a sandwich filling, those might qualify as convenient. There are deli “fresh” three-layered sandwiches with the mystery filling “ave pimentón” which presumably has chicken and red peppers in it, but what makes it into a paste? Occasionally these come in another variety, always on that wonder-bread-like pan de molde, always with three slices, sliced into triangles and nestled into a plastic pack, hypotenuse-out in the cooler.
In many corner stores (minimarket, in local parlance, please say it with a Chilean accent) and supermarkets, there are also plastic containers with cling wrap on top sold under the name platos preparados (prepared dishes) which might have pasta and meat, or meat and rice, sometimes salad, pastel de papas (kind of a sheperd’s pie), etc. I guess you take these back to the office and microwave the carcinogens right into your food, and then enjoy. Except the salad, don’t microwave the salad.
Now maybe it’s just me, but with the plentifulness and deliciousness of the fresh produce we have available, I’ve gone pretty wholefoosdy. I don’t seek out a lot of pre-prepared food or convenient little snacks. I eat breakfast cereal (cuadritos de avena, if you were wondering, they’re kind of like shredded oats), but for the most part it’s just food. You know, food. Like stuff our ancestors would have known was edible.
But I get into the convenience thing sometimes too. Which is why yesterday I bought a bag of soup mix. Soup mix? Yes, soup mix. You’re imagining a tiny foil packet, or an envelope, aren’t you? We have those things, sopa para uno, and crema de choclo (powdered cream of corn soup). I take them when I go camping.
But I’m in the city, with access to my circa 1945 two-burner stove and a giant pot left to me by my friend Rebecca when she moved back to Chicago (hi Rebecca!) So when I say I bought a bag of soup mix, this, my friends, is what I mean:
Maybe it’s not “convenience food” like you think of it, but getting that giant quantity of white beans out of their pods would have cost me an hour and most of my fingernails. I chose to buy the cholco (corn) separately because all the soup mix bags with corn in them also had string beans in them, and I don’t like string beans in my porotos granados, which is the soup/potage this bag was designed to make. There’s basil tucked into the top of the bag, and I start by sauteéing the white part of the scallions, though I think maybe this is not traditional. The matchbox (the same standard size I used to measure my kitchen in this festive post) is for scale, so you can see just how oversized the ears of corn are. I wish I could show you how cornstarched I got while cutting the kernels off the corn, but alas, I’ve already done laundry. And eaten a bowl and two mugs full of the soup. mmmm, convenient.
Tune in tomorrow for “Do you have any bread bread?”