This past weekend was one huge party across all of Chile. The 18th was Fiestas Patrias and the 19th was Army Day. Fiestas Patrias is the national day of independence. To celebrate there are big fairs throughout the city parks. Artisans and local restaurants set up rows tents made out of chicken wire and tree branches to sell their wares. At night there are concerts and dance parties until the early hours of the morning. Army Day is much more formal. In Parque O’Higgins there is a parade of the four services of the military: army, navy, air force & carabineros (similar to policemen). They march in synchronized a fashion and showed off their expertise and weapons.
I headed to Santiago with my host mom for the weekend. We stayed with her son (Gonzalo), his wife (Andrea) and their son (Facundo). They were so welcoming and treated me like one of the family the whole time I was there. Playing with cars and watching Madagascar with Facundo was especially fun too… 🙂
Friday, I spent the day with Lily. After a nice relaxing lunch complete with papaya ice cream, we took a walk. She showed me some of the apartments that had been shutdown due to the big earthquake a couple years ago. We also saw shops and shops full of traditional folkloric outfits.
Saturday, we celebrated two birthdays. First we went to Anita Maria and Jaime’s house to celebrate Oscar’s birthday. We ate some AMAZING food and drank some really good wine. My favorite of everything we ate though, were these peppers that were filled with sauteed cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and beef. Delicious!
We had two birthday cakes and I of course tested both of them. One was the typical carmel/filo dough sugar-filled cake and the other was a raspberry cream layer cake. Both excellent. When we felt like we were ready to explode, Anita Maria set out blankets on the lawn and we chatted and snoozed to give our stomachs a chance to catch up. Then we ate ice cream. Eating great food with such a kind group of people topped of with a breathtaking view of the Andes made for a marvelous “asado” or grill-out.
Finally we packed ourselves into the car only to return to a house full of guests for round two of the birthdays. Fortunately I caught my second wind in the bus and I was ready to embrace another asado. More wine was poured, more meat was grilled, more snacks were set out, and more beer was served. The evening ended at about 1PM with another sweet carmel cake and everyone full to the limit.
Sunday morning we all went to mass and then walked a couple blocks to Nelly’s house. Here we spent eight hours enjoying each others company, listening to stories about years ago, and of course eating. My host mom, Lilly, and Nelly’s kids all grew up together and are just like family, so they know each other very well and tease each other plenty. We ate a lot more grilled meat and dishes with lots of lemon, salt, mayonnaise, and oil. I tested (and really liked) two drinks that are unique to this time of the year. One is called a “terremoto” which is pineapple sherbet mixed with a sweet white wine called pipeño. Amazingly good and amazingly strong. The other drink is “ponche” (just a Chilean accent of punch…) which is lots of red wine mixed with lots of chopped up fresh fruit. It’s really good, I’d just suggest eating the fruit slowly because it’s strong. Ending the night we pushed back the tables and rolled back the rugs to watch people dance the cueca. That’s the folkloric dance of Chile that everyone holds dear to their heart.
After spending the day at the fonda we ate lunch with some friends of Gonzalo and watched the parade of the military. It was quite a day and a very special weekend. My conclusion of the entire weekend? Chileans know how to eat and drink, and they do it well.