For my 20th birthday, my host parents took my to a restaurant in Viña del Mar that serves traditional Chilean food, la Guivontana. Inside, small tables seating 2-8 people are arranged closely together and a guitar player entertained guests with songs as he walked around the restaurant.
My host padre quickly informed me to the reason as to why this restaurant was so popular: the meat. Huge plates with an entire thigh or head can be ordered. Yes, if you order the head the tongue and eyeballs come included.
en serio? I wondered.
Es very good, My host padre joked. Every so often he speaks one of two words of English, very good being his favorite in my opinion.
He ordered exactly what he had been pointing out: a thigh of meat. He demolished it — except for the layer of fat around the outside. My host mother explained to me that Chilean men usually eat the fat off the meat anyways. I think I’m going to stick to my vegetables: according to my host pardre, la comida de una coneja.
We all ordered our dishes — my host mamá ordered me el vegetariano – basically, a giant deconstructed salad. When I go to restaurants, I often order this. Two vegan thumbs up.
We all settled for red wine to drink and after the Gato I’m used to, it was marvelous. We cheers to my birthday (welcome to the twenties) and chatted about my night out, periodismo, and other things.
With our bread came aji picante, a pepper native to Chile that is commonly used to make a salsa. It’s hot but not as hot as other hot sauces more renowned in the United States. I ate huge dollops with pieces of bread, feeling beads of sweat just reach the surface of my skin then disappear. Repeat.
My host padres were not as inclined.
Towards the end of the meal, the rain started to pick up outside. My host padre looked over his shoulder and the sheets of water coming down onto the pavement. He was deciding whether or not to brave the rain: he needed to buy bread. Why? No hay pan para té.
This is incredibly important to my host padre, I quickly discovered. Like my brother can’t go without his bacon, my host padre needed his bread for tea. I laughed.
Against my will, my host padre asked the guitarist in the restaurant to play Happy Birthday for me, and I was treated to both the Spanish and English version. My face went hot and my cheeks turned the color of tomatoes.
After the restaurant looked my way and wished me a happy birthday, the guitarist continued on with a love song — using my name! It was a popular song as my host madre could be heard singing along.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a shot of plant-based licor: un araucano. It is thick like Aunt Jemimah’s maple syrup but sweet. It’s also apparently the traditional drink of Valparaiso. We then headed for the taxi to go back home.
A “very good” almuerzo, indeed.
en serio – seriously?
la comida de una coneja – rabbit food
papas fritas – french fries
muy linda – beautiful
licor – liquor
no hay pan para té – There’s no bread for tea
aji picante – spicy spice
periodismo – journalism
vegeteriano – vegetarian