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South America is a continent composed of twelve countries and one French colony. The Spanish-speaking countries are: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. The former colonies of Guyana and Suriname use English and Dutch, respectively, as their official languages, although many in their populations speak relatively same languages. The same can be said for the French colony of Guiana, the home of the cayenne pepper, where French is the official language.
The geography of South America is even more varied than that of North America, with long coastlines, lowlands, highlands and mountains, and tropical rain forests.
The climate varies from tropical, lying as it does across the Equator, to alpine in the high Andes, the backbone of it. The cuisine of South America reflects this rich diversity of culture and geography. The local cookeries of pre-Columbian South America have gradually come together with imported cuisines from Europe and Asia.
While the Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced their own culinary traditions to the native peoples of South America, indigenous ingredients changed the cuisines of the Old World.
The South American contributions included chocolate, vanilla, maize which is corn, hot peppers called aji in South America, guavas, sweet potatoes, manioc called cassava in South America, tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, beans, squash, peanuts, quinine, and papayas, as well as turkeys. Maize plays a key role in the cuisine of South America, and it is clearly different from the maize now grown in the Old World, grown mostly obvious in its larger kernels.
The potato is another vegetable indigenous to South America that has played an important role in cooking worldwide. There are also many vegetables in South America largely unknown beyond the continent, including ahipa, arracacha, maca, yacon, olluco, and oca. The demographics of South America are critical for understanding the diversity of its cuisines. In countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, the indigenous populations are most common, and their foods and food ways are the most important cuisines.
In Argentina’s the cuisine was heavily influenced by a large European immigration by Spaniards and Italians. Throughout South America, there is also an African influence due to the slave trade, which has added to the culinary mix. Venezuela was discovered in 1498 by Columbus when he found the mouth of the Orinoco River. In 1499 the Venezuelan coast was explored by Alonzo de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci, coming upon an island in the Gulf of Maracaibo, called it Venezuela because, according to legend, the native villages were built above the water on stilts.
Venezuela rises from lowlands to highlands with coffee plantations moving up to the white-capped Andean peaks. It has a mild climate due to its nearness to the Caribbean. Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, is the cultural, commercial, and industrial activity. Now I will tell you some local dishes that are known in Venezuela. Venezuelan cuisine relies heavily on maize. The two most important preparations are hallacas and arepas. Hallacas traditionally eaten during holidays, especially Christmas, boiled dumplings wrapped in banana leaves, but there are so many variations, depending on region and family tradition.
Hallacas are made with a dough made of maize flour mixed with water, which is then filled with meat, vegetables, and spices. Arepas are versatile flatbreads, also made of maize flour, that can be baked, grilled, fried, or steamed and served either sweet or savory. Black beans, called caviar criollo, are a Venezuelan favorite. They are served with arepas and are also part of the national dish, pabellon caraqueno. A hearty dish, it is said to resemble the national flag, pabellon, because of the colors of the beef, beans, rice, and plantains in it.
Arequipe, milk pudding is milk cooked with sugar until very thick, is a favorite dessert in Venezuela, as it is throughout South America. It has different names in different places, but is perhaps best known in the United States as dulce de leche. The traditional beverages of Venezuela are chicha, made of stirred up maize, and masato. The second largest nation in South America, Argentina extends from the subtropics to Tierra del Fuego. Although now a separate country, Argentina was once part of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, the River Plate with Uruguay.
The pampas are primarily cattle country and famous for ranching and farming, but this fertile land also produces good crops and fine wine. Here are some local dishes from Argentina. Finger foods are very popular and are served in cafes, called whiskerias, that evolved from tea shops. Empanadas, stuffed pies, are popular throughout South America, and in Argentina they come in various sizes and are eaten as hors d’oeuvres, for light lunches, or with cocktails. One popular filling combines meat and fruit.
I hope you learned a lot about South America. Here are some delicious recipes from South America. Couve a Mineira Shredded Kale AMOUNT INGREDENT 2lbs fresh kale 1/4cup olive oil or bacon fat 1/2cuponions 1/4inch dice 1garlic clove, minced to tastesalt and pepper PROCEDURE 1. Trim blemishes and tough stems from kale leaves. rinse thoroughly under running water. 2. layer leaves on top of eachother and slice crosswise into very thin strips.
3. heat oil over medium high heat, add onions and garlic and cook 3 to 5 minutes until softened 4. add kale and cook about 5 to 7minutes stirring often until kale is softened but not discolored or browned Season to taste. Aji Criollo Creole hot pepper salsa AMOUNT INGREDENT 4RED OR GREEN SERRANOS OR JALAPENO PEPPERS SEEDED AND MINCED 6TWATER 1/2t SALT 1/4CUPGREEN ONION WHIT PART ONLY MINCED 2TCILANTRO OR PARSLEY LEAVES MINCED PROCEDURE 1. COMBINE PEPPERS, 2 TABLESPOONS WATER AND SALT PIRE IN BLENDER 2. COMBINE PURE WITH GREEN ONION CILANTRO AND REMAINING WATER AND MIX WELL THIS IS BEST SERVED THE SAME DAY MADE.
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