Ham, Cheese and Other Foods in Argentina

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“What do you want to eat?”

“P-I-Z-Z-A! That’s pizza!”

“I don’t think I can take more pizza…”

“Whatever you want, guys. I’ll grab a few empanadas later.”

This is us, every night, in Argentina. With the heat, we generally don’t feel like eating pasta or having a giant piece of meat on the barbecue, no matter how tasty it is. We grab food here and there, from the supermarket, from bakeries, from simple eateries. Carrefour supermarkets are almost everywhere and it’s funny for me to see French brands in Argentina.

But no matter what we buy, the ingredients always revolve around ham, cheese and beef, anyway. The other day, I saw a carrot. I almost cried. It had been so long!

Vegetables aren’t exactly part of the Argentinian diet. They do exist, I see them in stores and occasionally mixed in an overpriced salad in restaurants. But the deli is where people line up at the supermarket, a number in their hand. “Treinta! Treinta y uno! Treinta y dos!” If you don’t pay attention, you’ll lose your turn and won’t be able to buy your pound of ham and cheese.

North America has the famous “PB&J” sandwich, Argentina goes by the initials “J-y-Q”— jamón y queso, ham and cheese. The pair can top a pizza, fill an empanada or a sandwich or be baked in a salado, bite-size savoury breads.

The food isn’t about spices, it’s about texture. By international standards, it’s quite bland—it’s salty or sweet but never spicy, sour or bitter. However, you bite into gooey cheese, enjoy the soft bread of a sandwiche de miga (thin, crustless sandwiches) or the crisp wrapping of an empanada al horno, the flaky pastries, the slightly sandy dough of many small facturas

I’m a huge fan of empanadas that I pick up late at night. My favourite fillings? Ham and cheese, of course, but also ham and Roquefort (yes, blue cheese), acelga (chard), caprese (tomatoes, mozzarella and basil) or cebolla y queso (onion and cheese).

Argentinian empanadas are smaller than in Chile, and so are pastries, the famous facturas. They are cheap—about 50 cents each for the most common ones. Every bakery usually has an assortment of croissant-dough pastries topped or filled with a spoonful of jam, cream or dulce de leche, masas secas (buttery cookies) you buy by weight, slices of cake and salados (savoury breads). The traditional cookie is the alfajore, a sandwich cookie filled with dulce de leche but I’d say medialunas (croissant) is the second favourite.

Surprisingly, this time, I haven’t seen many people drinking the traditional yerba mate, the traditional infused drink. Maybe it’s too hot?

“Stay calm and have a mate” sign in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Mate with croissants for breakfast in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Classic ham-and-cheese sandwich in Buenos Aires

Pizza in Buenos Aires

McDonalds sundae with dulce de leche in Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Mark eating an empanada in Buenos Aires (knive and fork completely not needed)

Facturas in Buenos Aires

Empanadas in Buenos Aires

Juice vs. wine in Buenos Aires

Beer and ham-and-cheese sandwich, sounds about right

Quilmes beer in Buenos Aires

Pizza in Buenos Aires

Pizza in Buenos Aires

Meat, lots of it, in Rosario

Hot water in a gas station in Rosario for the mate

Mate aisle in a supermarket in Rosario

Dulce de leche aisle in a supermarket in Rosario

Quilmes beer in a supermarket in Rosario

Specials of the week: meat, in a supermarket in Rosario

Facturas in Rosario

Facturas in Rosario

An alfajore in the bus to Paraná

People having mate with their McDonalds meal in Paraná

Ice cream in Paraná (with Mormon missionaries in the background…)

Facturas in Paraná

Facturas in Paraná

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

4 Comments

  1. I don’t understand why everyone in Argentina doesn’t weigh 500 pounds, with all that ham and bread and cheese flying around. Is it because they also don’t eat a lot of processed/sugary foods?

    Now I really want a ham and cheese for lunch :).

    • It’s hard to say. Same as French don’t get fat from eating bread or Chinese from eating oily stuff… smaller portions, more exercise, I guess. People walk everywhere. That said, I have no idea how can some stuff be so high in calories in Canada. I mean, a slice of cake at Starbucks shouldn’t be 400 calories (and it is, according to the label!).

  2. I love anything with cheese 😉 But I do have to admit I really struggle when I don’t have easy access to fruit and veggies. I remember when I was in Brazil it would cost a fortune to have a big salad when anything with beans / rice / meat was cheap. In 30 degree weather I just wanted tomatoes lol

    • My diet is mostly veggie-based in Canada because I’m cooking but here, I just adapt to what’s available I guess. I had salad a couple of times in Santiago and Buenos Aires but they are often expensive and hard to find.

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