Old-school Style: a Christmas Dinner Just Like in the Olden Days

A journey through time, to family cooking and the festivities of yesteryear

Christmas meals are shaped by each family’s individual circumstances. If there is space on the terrace or patio, and the right size of barbecue, spit-roasted or oven-cooked suckling pig and chicken with Russian salad tend to be the usual Christmas fare. Either way, the table will be filled with delicacies that evoke the flavors of childhood; recreations of immigrant dishes that have become mainstays of the festive period. Some dishes have been forgotten, while others have become firm favorites.

Picada (2021-01-20/2021-01-20) by Juan Pablo LanciottiGustar

Midsummer calories

The end-of-year festivities in Argentina come with a calorie-rich menu that is something of an anomaly for summertime in the southern hemisphere, although which perhaps inevitably has been shaped by people’s wish to emulate these festivities in their original form. 


When it comes to cold dishes, pickled eggplant and chicken, and tongue in vinaigrette have always been the most popular Argentinian adaptations of vinegar-preserved dishes.


Practically obligatory at birthdays and weddings, pionono is a recipe that originated in Spain and developed an identity of its own in Argentina. It consists of a thin layer of sponge, rolled up and filled with a range of fillings such as tuna, ham, cheese, or palm hearts.

Vitel Toné

Beef in a tuna sauce, known in Italian as vitello tonato, is a dish that originated in Piedmont, reaching Argentina with the wave of immigrants who came to the country in the late 19th century. The dish became a cornerstone of the local cuisine and a central feature of Christmas fare.

Bandeja (2021-01-20/2021-01-20) by Juan Pablo LanciottiGustar

A local flavor

In Argentina, it is usually served as a cold appetizer, made with thinly sliced eyeround steak (a lean cut of meat from the rear of a cow) and accompanied by a sauce made from egg, tuna, anchovies, oil, and capers.

Picada (2021-01-20/2021-01-20) by Juan Pablo LanciottiGustar


Originally made by Spain’s Morisco population, buñuelos cemented their reputation as part of French and Spanish cuisine. Argentina developed its own version to be eaten at national and religious festivals, or as an appetizer before a roast. 

Buñuelo de pescado (2021-01-20/2021-01-20) by Juan Pablo LanciottiGustar

Colonial tradition

Buñuelos made with chard, rice, and cauliflower are some of the best-known local savory versions, while sweet versions such as those filled with quince, sweet potato, or apple are firm favorites dating back to the colonial era.

Picada (2021-01-20/2021-01-20) by Juan Pablo LanciottiGustar

Platter of cold cuts

A feature of any Argentinian appetizer course, a platter of cold cuts (known in Spanish as a tabla de fiambres) is testament to the range of nationalities that were part of Argentina’s immigrant population. It includes German sausages, Italian mortadella and salami, Spanish sausages and hams, and cheeses and snacks from all over the world.

Roasted peppers

Syrian, Jewish, and Arab families introduced roasted peppers preserved in oil and garlic into the local cuisine, and they are now a staple of any Argentinian appetizer course.

Cornalitos con mayonesa provensal (2021-02-05/2021-02-05) by Juan Pablo LanciottiGustar

Fried silverside fish

When fried and served with lemon, silverside fish, part of the silversmelt family, are a flagship dish of Argentina’s Atlantic coast, and of the appetizer courses of yesteryear, which are now undergoing something of a revival at the hands of chefs reliving their youth.

Picada (2021-01-20/2021-01-20) by Juan Pablo LanciottiGustar

Demijohns and soda siphons

Demijohns and soda siphons evoke memories of the days of plentiful family meals in Argentina. The wicker-wrapped round demijohn bottle is a symbol of the era spanning from the days of the gauchos to the 1980s and is now experiencing a revival.

The legendary penguin wine pitcher

Although theories abound regarding the origins of the traditional penguin-shaped Argentinian wine pitcher, it is believed to have been brought over by Italian immigrants in the late 1930s. Within a short space of time, the penguin pitcher had become one of the most popular wine jugs at family barbecues, in local stores, and in neighborhood diners.

Pingüino (2021-01-20/2021-01-20) by Juan Pablo LanciottiGustar

The house wine

Whether ceramic or earthenware, in white or brown, these jugs—known simply as penguins—have become iconic cultural objects in Argentina. They can still be requested in bars and restaurants serving their own house wines, in liter, half liter, or quarter liter versions.

Credits: Story

Editor: Diego Marinelli/Text: Aníbal Mendoza

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