Latin American cuisine is a celebration of our culture

Gabriella Pinos/ Staff Writer 

With the variety of nationalities and cultures at FIU, debates over food are sure to spring up from time to time.

Doing so is a fruitless effort, as it stirs fierce arguments over which country serves the best cuisine.

And during Hispanic Heritage month, those arguments are sure to spark more than ever.

For now, though, let’s put our differences aside and look at all the delicious flavors that make up Latin America.

We have our staples here in Miami, such as the plates of rotisserie chicken, “picadillo” (ground beef), and rice and beans served in Hispanic households all over the city. On special occasions, some feast on pork and “congri” (Cuban rice and beans) while others grill “churrasco” (skirt steak) and “chorizo” (pork sausage).

The baked goods we make – pastelitos, tequeños, pan de bono, tres leches and flan – range from sweet to salty and are widely available across South Florida.

Each country and region in the Americas serves up their own specialties, some of which might seem strange to the uninitiated. “Morcilla,” or blood sausage, is commonly eaten along with a juicy cut of beef in South America and Spain. “Mondongo,” a traditional Colombian dish, is a surprisingly delicious soup made of cow stomach.

And then there are the dishes most would consider downright absurd. In Bolivia, “caldo de cardán,” or bull penis soup, is a hangover cure, energy booster and makeshift Viagra. In Ecuador, where my family is from, “cuy,” or roasted guinea pig, is normally eaten with a side of potatoes. And in Cuba, a rodent native to the island called “jutía” was hunted for its healthy and delicious meat, at least until some species of the animal nearly went extinct.

The Latin American food scene in Miami isn’t nearly as crazy as some of our own countries, but its buffet of dining options gives everyone a chance to try a bit of everything.

With that said, Latin American food is more than just a plate of rodent or bull penis, it’s part of our identity. Aside from the variation in our accents, knowing how to make our favorite dish from our home country is what makes us distinct.

If there’s anything Cubans, Nicaraguans, Argentinians, Puerto Ricans and so on share, it’s the pride we have for our flag, where we came from.

Trust me when I say there’s nothing we love more than to eat a hearty meal and romanticize our Latin roots. It’s almost like a competition to see who can remember the most from the last time they visited their home country.

It’s a burden of knowledge to know the food and customs that set your nationality apart from others. But it’s even more special when someone bears that same burden, and discussions about the recipes our mothers and grandmothers passed down to us are exchanged.

The memories and experiences I’ve had through food are what makes Latin American cuisine so special to me. Even if you aren’t Hispanic, the aroma of pork and rice and beans invites everyone to come together and share a common experience. After all, Hispanic Heritage month is a celebration of culture, and there’s nothing that kicks off a celebration better than some great food.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by supergiball on Flickr. 

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