Regional Food Habits

Brazil. Brazilian foods have a heavy Portuguese, African, and native influence. The Portuguese contributed dried salt cod, linguiça (Portuguese sausage), spicy meat stews, and desserts such as corn and rice pudding. Africans brought to the area as slaves contributed okra, dendê oil (palm oil), and peppercorns. The national dish of Brazil is feijoda completa, which consists of black beans cooked with smoked meats and sausages served with rice, sliced oranges, boiled greens, and hot sauce. It is topped with toasted cassava meal. Coffee, rum, and beer are common beverages.

Colombia and Venezuela. Venezuelan and Colombian foods have Spanish influences. Many foods are cooked or served with olive oil, cheese, parsley, cilantro, garlic, and onions. Hot chile peppers are served on the side of most dishes. Local fruits and vegetables are abundant, and tropical fruits are often dried to make fruit leather. In Columbia, chicken stew and sancocho (a meat stew with starchy vegetables) are popular. One of the most unusual specialties of Columbia is hormiga, a dish made from fire ants. Toasted ants are also a favorite treat during the insect season in June. In Venezuela, cornmeal bread, or arepa, is a staple food. Arepa is cooked on a griddle and is sometimes stuffed with meat or cheese before it is fried. Pabellón caraqueño is also popular. This dish consists of flank steak served on rice with black beans, topped with fried eggs and garnished with plantain chips. Coffee, rum, and beer are common beverages.

Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay. These southern countries are major beef producers. Argentineans eat more beef per capita than any other country in the world. Argentina is famous for asados, restaurants specializing in barbecued and grilled meat dishes—mainly beef, but also pork, lamb, and chicken. The national dish of Argentina is matam-bre, which is herb-seasoned flank steak rolled around a filling of spinach, whole hard-boiled eggs, and whole or sliced carrots. It is then tied with a string and either poached in broth or baked.

Citizens of these southern states enjoy hearty soups and stews daily. Fish soups and stews are popular in coastal Chile. Stews in Argentina often combine meats, vegetables, and fruits. The soups of Paraguay have heavy European influences and include bori-bori, which is a beef soup with cornmeal and cheese dumplings. Pizza, pasta, and meat dishes are popular in these countries. Wines from the midlands of Chile are considered to be some of the best produced on the continent.

Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname. Guyanese cuisine is a culinary hybrid with African, East Indian, Portuguese, and Chinese influences. Guyanese usually cook three full meals every day. Rice and roti (flat bread)

are staples at lunch and dinner. Fresh cow's milk may be part of the morn- staples: essential foods in the diet ing or evening meal. A favorite dish is pepper pot, a stew made with bitter cassava juice, meat, hot pepper, and seasoning. Other popular foods are roti and curry, garlic pork, cassava bread, chow mein, and "cook up," a one-pot meal that can include any favorite meats or vegetables. Popular homemade drinks are mauby, made from the bark of a tree, sorrel, made from a leafy vegetable used in salads, and ginger beer. People in French Guiana enjoy an international cuisine, as well as Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indonesian dishes. Imported soft drinks and alcoholic drinks are popular but expensive. Suriname's cuisine has heavy Javanese, Dutch, Creole, Chinese, and Hindustani influences. Beer and rum are popular alcoholic drinks.

Peru and Ecuador. The cuisine of Peru and Ecuador is typically divided into the highland foods of the Andes and the lowland dishes of the tropical coastal regions. The cuisine in the mountain areas is the most unique in South America, preserving many dishes of the Inca Indians. Potatoes are eaten at nearly every meal, including snacks. More than 200 varieties of potato can be found in the Lake Titicaca region. They range in color from purple to blue, and from yellow to brown. Size and texture vary as well— some are as small as nuts, while others can be as large as oranges. The foods of Peru and Ecuador feature an abundant use of chile peppers. Salsa de ají, a mixture of chopped chile, onion, and salt is served at most meals. The coastal region is famous for its cerviches, a method for preparing seafood in which the main ingredient is marinated in lime or sour orange.

The natural beauty of South America makes it a popular ecotourism destination. Food-borne and water-borne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Visitors are therefore advised to wash their hands often and to drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles. They also should avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. see also Caribbean Islanders, Diet of; Central Americans and Mexicans, Diets of.

Delores C. S. James


Kittler, P. G., and Sucher, K. P. (2001). Food and Culture, 3rd edition. Stamford, CT: Wadsworth.

Internet Resources

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Health Information for Travelers to Temperate South America." Available from < temsam.htm>

Hamre, Bonnie. "South America for Visitors." Available from <http://>

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