Before travelling worldwide, I never paid much attention to food. I'm a college student. Therefore, I've never given much thought to foods that exist beyond the spectrum of sandwich or cereal.
But what traveling has done for me, is give me the keys to a brand new world. The world of food. And not just food food. But FOOD food.
When I was living in Japan, I wrote a post about the food in Japan. However, after living in Bolivia for two months, my world-wide-food knowledge has increased and I feel compelled to write more about food, especially the food of Central South America.
In Japan, I don't remember eating anything that wasn't delicious. Everything was savory. In Bolivia, unfortunately, I think that half of the things I ate were unsavory. I'm not sure if that's because Bolivians have different tastes, or if La Paz's 11,000 foot altitude messes up the food, or if maybe I ordered the wrong food each time. But it seemed as though a lot of the food I ate tasted bland. The only saving grace was that all food was super cheap - so I could eat as much bland food as I wanted.
It even looks bland, doesn't it?
In Asia, steamed white rice was the center of every meal and vegetables were the side dishes. In Latin America, the center of every meal is meat - usually a big fat piece of chicken. Interestingly, the chicken is eaten with a knife and fork. In the US, eating chicken gives you automatic permission to eat with your hands. In Bolivia, even a drumstick is eaten with a knife and fork.
The sides that come with your big piece of chicken are almost always rice and potatoes. The portions of the rice and potatoes are usually big, too. So I guess it would be incorrect to call them sides, since the rice and potatoes are just as important as the meat. Rice, potatoes, and meat. It's the love triangle of every South American dish.
And, every meal in South America is accompanied by a bottle of Coke. Or Sprite. Or some other carbonated drink that has made the leading cause of death in Latin America to be diabetes. While the main beverage in Japan is green tea, the main beverage in Bolivia is sugary death.
No food? That's okay. As long as you got Coke!
Usually in the United States, if you don't want to drink coke, you have an option of juice or even mineral water (which nobody ever touches, except dieters.) In Bolivia, the only alternatives to soda is a different flavor of soda. Or sometimes, juice, which has so much sugar that you might as well just drink the soda.
Back to Japanese food. Although Japanese food is healthy, nutritious, and delicious, a piece of fruit on that island nation costs an arm and a leg. And although the meals I ate in Bolivia tended to be unhealthy and not always delicious, Bolivia had a lot of cheap fruits, the food I love most!
Because they are so expensive in Japan, fruits are usually given as gifts. But in Bolivia, they are cheap and available at every marketplace. Fruit vendors sell smoothies and fruit salads for about a dollar.
Interestingly, South America has fruits that I've never even heard of. Like most Americans, I've spent most of my life thinking that fruits consisted of things like apples, bananas, cherries, berries, and grapes. But what travelling has taught me is that there are fruits out there that I've never even heard of. Fruits that seem to have been taken out of a Dr. Seuss storybook.
The fruit pictured above is called a "Granadilla". It's similar to passion fruit; it has a hard orange shell that you have to break to get to the dark, gelatin seeds inside. The easiest way to get them out is to slurp them out of the fruit. It's quite fun.
Other interesting fruits that are common in that part of the world include cherimoya (a cross between a pear and pineapple), lucama (a fruit that tastes like maple), and camu camu (small fruit, fun name.)
If through this post I happened to discouraged you from eating South American food, you should at least go for the fruit. They're amazing. The fruits of Bolivia and all of South America are a tourist attraction in themselves.