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Back on Latin America's menu: purple seaweed, blue eggs, and amaranth

As traditional foods like quinoa gain popularity world-wide, many in Latin America are seeking to get their own residents to delve into plates that were the superfoods of their ancestors.

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Globalization has generated many foes, among them the foodie set of Latin America, lamenting local markets saturated with American fats, hidden in everything from Fritos to fast-food chains.

But, not unlike its rise economically and diplomatically, now Latin America has also declared culinary independence, resurrecting traditional foods like quinoa, amaranth, and blue eggs.

"There is a growing appreciation for traditional products," says Juan Carlos Quiñeman, a chef who grew up in an indigenous Mapuche community in southern Chile and has created award-winning recipes using traditional ingredients such as luche, a purple-black seaweed used in soups. "Chefs are taking pride in representing a region, using the recipes they knew as children, and putting them, for example, on the menu at a hotel."

They are also seeking to get their own residents to delve into plates that were the superfoods of their ancestors. In Mexico, amaranth, a plant whose seed is consumed as a high-protein cereal was a major component of both the Aztec diet and their religious rituals. But after the conquest of the Spanish and their quest to convert Aztecs into Christians, amaranth was banned. Today, says Jose de la Rosa, coordinator for historic patrimony for the Secretary of Culture of Mexico City, “it is beans and corn that are given more importance when it should be amaranth.”

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