9 Weird Things About Uruguayan Food! (Number 4 Will SHOCK You!)

I knew it. Y’all are suckers for a clickbait headline. (I’m kidding. I know at least eight of you are stronger than that.) Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and of course nothing got my creative juices flowing better than a reflection on Uruguay’s culinary quirks. I’ve talked about this in the past, but I’m super excited to let you know that I will be starting a food/cooking blog next year. While I’m eating pretty much whatever I want here (hey, it’s cultural!), my intention is to use my future blog as a space to chronicle my move to a more plant-based diet. Don’t worry, though – there will be plenty of desserts. Who knew avocados help make great vegan brownies? Here, however, I’ve gotta say that my sweet of choice is…

1. ALFAJORES

If fútbol and representative democracy (in that order) are Uruguay’s top two calling cards, alfajores are a close third. While there are tons of different brands and varieties of alfajor (I’m trying to get my friends to start a blog to rate them all), they always include a healthy serving of dulce de leche between two soft cookies. Usually, they’re dipped in chocolate, but some brands also use powdered sugar or coconut. Just like every body is unique and beautiful, so is every alfajor – big, small, soft, crunchy, and everywhere in between.

I had to buy this so I could take a picture. And since it was unwrapped, I had to eat it. The things I do for you people...
I had to buy this so I could take a picture. And since it was unwrapped, I had to eat it. The things I do for you people…

2. We put mozzarella on sandwiches…

I don’t know why I thought this was so funny, but I guess it generally fits with Uruguay’s pride in its Italian heritage. This might totally just be our house, but mozzarella is an extremely multipurpose cheese and is frequently used along with fried eggs on chivitos, burgers, cold sandwiches, and more. I haven’t seen hair nor hide of cheddar since I got here, and it does bum me out a little.

3. …but not on pizza.

Yeah. If you just order pizza, you’ll find yourself in possession of some tasty bread and sauce. The cheese only comes if you order a muzzarella. I’m also a pretty big fan of figazza, which is just bread, some light oil, and onion. Lots of onion. (Note: It looks like you can make it with or without cheese. More figazza to try!)

4. We put mayonnaise on EVERYTHING.

Fries. Sammies. Salads. Mayo haters to the left, because mayonnaise is a great condiment and I will defend that to my grave. Also, your options are pretty limited otherwise (see #7).

My first chivito, which featured both mozzarella and mayonnaise thank-you-very-much
My first chivito, which featured both mozzarella and mayonnaise thank-you-very-much

5. What the heck is a palto?

Well, my dear friend who’s still adapting to the fact that pretty much every Rioplatense word for food is different than what they use anywhere else, it’s an avocado. A frutilla? A fresa. What the heck is a maracuyá? Okay, I guess they call it that everywhere else, but for us lesser US-English speakers, it’s a passion fruit. Also, corn is choclo and I think that is quite cute.

6. Cortados, macchiatos, and café con crema (or con whiskey)

Okay, so y’all know my thoughts and feelings on coffee in this country. Thankfully, I’ve finally found a couple great places to get some caffeine (and cake). To be honest, though, I’m still working on figuring out what exactly I’m getting. As far as I’ve been able to deduce, a cortado is a latte, a macchiato is a strong espresso with a bit of milk and lots of foam, and café con leche is… also a latte? Yeah, I’m honestly not sure. I typically just rotate between whatever’s cheapest and involves milk. Café con crema, however, usualmente está muy rica. It’s coffee, garnished or presented with a small helping of slightly sweetened whipped cream. Yeah. No complaints here, now that I’ve found where to get my fix. (Now that I think about it, a cafe guide may well be a post of its own…)

My friends here always accuse me of making them hungry with my cafe posts, so I'm being nice and just including one here. Besides, they all involve some variation on espresso and chocolate cake.
My friends here always accuse me of making them hungry with my cafe posts, so I’m being nice and just including one here. Besides, they all involve some variation on espresso and chocolate cake.

7. Oregano appears to be the most daring seasoning decision

No tea no shade, but Uruguayan food isn’t exactly known for its… flavor profile. (I’m pretty sure this isn’t just me being picky. Uruguayan natives have confirmed this.) I don’t even like spicy food that much, but I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve prayed for a drop of Sriracha to grace my palate here. My roommate has engaged in some high-stakes hot sauce transactions, and meanwhile, I dig through the cabinets hoping for something hotter than powdered pimiento.

8. Picking your poison

The default size of beer here is 1L, which is good for people who like beer, and/or broke college students. I’m one of those things, and it ain’t “beer fan.” While a liter of cheap beer – Pilsen, Patricia, and Zillertal are the most common brands – will run you about U$160 (about $5 USD), a box of wine of the same size is about $2.75 USD. I’m definitely becoming a wine person, and that’s all I’ll say about that.

My French friends said this wine is pretty good, so it has to be true
My French friends said this wine is pretty good, so it has to be true

9. I miss Cheetos 🙁

Presented without comment.

Honorary #10/Author’s Note: When I wrote my blog post about every day life here, I didn’t mention that milk is in bags. Later, Nick was mad that I didn’t mention that milk is in bags.

In Uruguay, milk comes in bags.
In Uruguay, milk is in bags.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’re all having a fantastic spring, and if you’re stressing about finals week, just remember that I’ll be stuck in the classroom until the dead of winter (July). Un besito, and until next time, que pasen bien!

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