By Aurora Andrade
Translated by J. M. Forsythe
The port city welcomes me with a salty, humid odor and the colorful splashes of its houses. The strong breeze from the port carries me along as I lose myself along its steep, winding streets. Students from the school of Fine Arts draw the hidden corners of a city which reinvents itself with each stroke.
It’s lunchtime. I follow a group of young people who duck into a shop as cozy and colorful as the landscape. They invite me to their table and we order empanadas de mariscos, pastel de choclo, and a salad with tomatoes and avocados which appear to be harvested from a country of giants. I combine each bite with pebre (pico de gallo without chile) and merquén, a dried, sweet chile, the pride of Mapuche gastronomy. I don’t know if it’s the flavors, the company or the music – in the background Agustín Lara boleros are playing-, but something makes me forget that I’m in another hemisphere.
Night has fallen and I stroll over to Caruso. Tomás Olivera, the chef, makes good on his promise: I find the best of the port city’s traditional cuisine here, well prepared and well served. I carry away several tattoos on my palate: The delicate flavor of the calugas de rollizo, a rockfish caught using artesian methods and prepared with a light batter, and the sweet simplicity of mini papayas filled with strawberry ice cream. The food is an apt reflection of Chilean character.