Chileans not only eat a variety of different meals than we eat in the United States, they also have a slightly different meal schedule. A day in Chilean life still calls for three complete meals; however, lunch is to be the largest meal of the day – and I mean very, very large. Lunch is typically the only meal during which meat is served, making it an exciting time of the day for someone who loves meat as much as I do! In most traditional Chilean households, the mom only cooks one meal a day, normally lunch, served at 2 or 3 o’clock. This clearly leaves a pretty large gap of time between breakfast, which is eaten around 8 o’clock in the morning, and the afternoon meal. And no, snacking is not really a habit here in Chile, meaning you patiently wait until lunchtime to eat.
Meals are almost always served and eaten with the entire family present, with lunch lasting anytime between one and three hours. Families value this time together, seeing it as an excellent opportunity to share about their days and enjoy one another’s company. Coming from the U.S., this was quite the adjustment for me, as I had become accustomed to quick meals in Phelps or in fast food drive-throughs! Although a challenge at first, lunch is now one of my favorite periods of the day. I truly value this time with my wonderful host family.
Breakfast in Chile usually consists of tea or coffee, hot bread with jelly, sweet fruit, and, occasionally, eggs. However, every once in a while, you may be served a sandwich or salad for breakfast. Although I find it normal to eat certain foods at certain times, Chileans do not seem to feel the same; any food is fair game for any meal. Yet, a typical dinner happens to be almost identical to a typical breakfast: some type of bread with some type of topping (whether it be jelly again or chicken-flavored spread), veggies, and tea. An unreal amount of bread is served and consumed in Chile. Chileans view bread just as I know Mexicans view tortillas… like precious gold.
Two staple meals unique to Chilean culture are empanadas and chorrillana. Empanadas are large masa (dough) pockets, deep-fried and stuffed to the brim with an assortment of cheese, meat, veggies, olives, and many other ingredients, served to your liking. Buying empanadas on the street is a regular practice here in Chile, and they are extremely cheap! Empanadas are a must for anyone visiting this beautiful country.
Of all the meals I have been served thus far, chorrillana is my personal favorite and my new obsession. Essentially, it is a massive pile of salty French fries loaded with glorious goodness. The fries are topped with juicy strips of beef, salchicha (they say it’s sausage, but I am 99% sure it’s just chopped up hot dogs), onions, and scrambled eggs. As if that weren’t delicious enough, chorrillana is always paired with mayo. Chileans value mayo like Americans value ranch, so I’ve learned that mayo can and does go well with absolutely everything. EVERYTHING.