As much as I hate to make a blanket statement concerning an entire people and civilization…
CHILEANS NEED TO GET OUT MORE
food-wise, that is, as they’re far too stuck in their ways. The two most shocking examples of this both involve the wonder food, avocado (“palta”), and my apparently offensive use of said wonder food. Why? Chileans have a very set list of things that they eat hot, and things that they eat cold, and never the twain shall meet.
I went to an empanada shop in La Ligua, a town renowned for its pastries, and proceeded to order an empanada with chicken and cheese, which they began making in front of me. “Y palta,” I added, asking them to add some tasty avocado to the empanada.
“You’re kidding me,” she said. “Palta? Have you ever had palta in an empanada?”
“Um… no. But doesn’t that sound good?”
“I mean, I guess, if you’re sure. But I can’t promise it’ll be any good.”
As one woman went into the back room to rummage around for a spare palta, the other woman came up to me, eyes wide with wonder.
“Have you ever had palta in an empanada?”
At this point, I began worrying. Maybe there’s something I don’t know about this dish? Maybe Chilean avocados turn poisonous in the heat? Maybe it’s offensive to them to suggest the heating up of palta, their green hallmark of all things cold?
Or maybe they just haven’t tried it yet. They made it, and after letting it cool to barely scalding temperatures, I tried it.
Offensive? Nope. Poison? Hardly. It was delicious, because that’s what happens when you add avocado to anything, Chile.
The same thing has happened at a few local sandwich shops, where I took the risk of varying from the standard “Ave-Palta” (avocado and chicken, literally “bird”) to suggest adding some cheese and maybe a piece of lettuce.
“Ave-Palta-Queso?” They ask, incredulous. “Have you ever had that before?”