A visitor to Argentina’s food culture would likely leave with one impression above all others: these people eat a LOT of beef. Argentina is the world’s highest beef-consuming nation per capita, with its residents devouring a mind-boggling 149 pounds of delicious steer meat per man, woman, and child per year. Obviously a population does not hit a number like that eating the same preparation every day, and Argentinians enjoy beef in hamburgers, as empanada fillings, and as breaded, fried cutlets known locally as milanesas. By far the most popular way to eat beef in Argentina, though, is asado, grilled beef steaks or ribs, enjoyed almost always with the Argentine national condiment, chimichurri (recipe follows).
For our most recent match on The World Cup of Food, pitting Afghan cuisine against Israeli, we tested the merits of each with a meatball soup. Afghan mashawa is a stew of legumes and small beef or lamb meatballs spiced subtly with cinnamon. Israeli gondi is a chicken soup with chicken and garbanzo bean flour dumplings, with a flavor a little like hummus. We liked one soup more than the other and have chosen one cuisine to advance in our competition at the other’s expense.
Israeli cuisine is a combination of foods popular throughout the Middle East region, like falafel, ful medames, baklava, hummus, or baba ganouj, and of foods brought to Israel by Jewish populations from around the world as part of the Zionist movement, like kugel, gefilte fish, latkes, or gondi (recipe follows), a chicken soup with garbanzo bean and chicken meat dumplings brought to Israel originally by Persian Jews.
When we were browsing around, trying to figure out what we would feature next now that Afghanistan has come around again on The World Cup of Food, a description for a recipe on the blog Afghan Culture Unveiled piqued our interest: “Afghan Chili.” The dish was called mashawa (recipe follows), and further research revealed that it goes by a variety of descriptions, like “lentil soup,” “meatball soup,” or “spicy beans.” Recipes we found in books and online showed a variety of methods and ingredients, and we were eager to produce our own.
Once again we need to eliminate a cuisine in The World Cup of Food and get one step closer to crowning a champion. This week’s match between Switzerland and Hungary featured Swiss cheesy goodness and Hungary’s spice of choice, paprika.
To understand Hungarian cuisine, it is important to understand the travels of Hungary’s largest ethnic group, the historically nomadic Magyars. The Magyar people’s origins have been traced as far back as the year 2000 BCE, when a group of Uralic-speaking people began to split from the rest of their people and occupied the southern Ural Mountains region, in what today is Kazakhstan. Between the fourth and eighth centuries the group moved over the Urals into today’s Ukraine and southwest Russia. Around the beginning of the tenth century they moved into the region that today is called Hungary and have been there ever since.
In the last century Swiss food, a varied amalgam of French, German, Austrian, Italian, and many other international influences, has come to be best known for a single communally shared dish: fondue (recipe follows).
We enjoyed some of the best that Colombia and Puerto Rican cuisines have to offer and have decided which we think is better. We know that many of our readers have attachments to either culture, so we proceed knowing that someone will be disappointed.
Christmas is celebrated with vigor around the world, but perhaps no one revels quite as hard as the Puerto Ricans. Beginning at the end of November and lasting until the latter part of January, the Puerto Rico Christmas season is dotted with celebrations, each its own reason for a feast. Holiday gatherings might feature lechón, roast young pig; tostones, fried plantain slices; bacalaítos fritos, salt cod fritters; or various other local specialties. Virtually no holiday meal, though, is without arroz con gandules (recipe follows), rice with pigeon peas.
Puerto Rican cuisine today is a blend of the native Taíno culture’s practices (sadly, there are no remaining Taínos to keep this tradition alive) along with influences from European colonists (you guessed it, the Spanish) and African slaves that later inhabited the Caribbean island. After the Spanish ceded the island to the United States in 1898 (one of the clauses in the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War), American influences became a part of the local cuisine as well.