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Ham, Cheese and Other Foods in Argentina

“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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