A Fantastic Journey Through Our Native Cuisine

The legacy of the natives

Back in Time

The natives of South America had a diverse food culture. Different regions had produce that was unknown in others. This is how the Incas never knew about cocoa and the Aztecs never knew about potatoes. However, both consumed maize.

Agricultora (2021-01-25/2021-02-01) by Humberto MartinezGustar

Many native peoples who lived in the current Argentinean region obtained food through hunting and gathering. Other native peoples, like the Guaraní, the Mapuche, and the cultures of the northwest linked to the Inca Empire, focused on animal farming and husbandry.

Mercado (2021-01-11/2021-01-13) by Ivan SlodkyGustar

With the natives, Argentina’s long agricultural and livestock history was born. Taking advantage of the extremely fertile soils and majestic indigenous fauna, they laid the foundation for hundreds of culinary traditions in our country, based on maize and potatoes.

Llama (2021-03-26/2021-04-02) by Humberto MartinezGustar

There were also foods that were replaced when the Spanish introduced cattle, like llama and guanaco. Their meats were consumed as part of rituals, and they are now primarily raised for wool.

Puertas adentro de la cocina argentina: escabeche de guanacoGustar

How to Prepare Guanaco Escabeche

Calapurca (2021-01-25/2021-02-01) by Humberto MartinezGustar

Before the 16th century, different cooking techniques were already being practiced in South America. At that time, the natives already knew how to boil, roast, fry and toast the foods they ate. They were renowned for stews, now a key part of Argentinean cuisine.

Choclo (2021-01-11/2021-01-14) by Humberto MartinezGustar

The legacy of the natives is evident in Argentina’s food culture. A good example of this is humita. This dish is based on maize, an original South American cereal, which gained its name from the Quechuan word “humint’a” and was created using a milling technique.

Charqui (2021-01-11/2021-01-14) by Humberto MartinezGustar

Charqui or charque, a type of very finely cut meat which is sun-dried and preserved in salt for long periods of time, is another legacy from the natives. Its name comes from the Quechuan word “charki” and is one of an endless range of northern dishes.

The natives knew to use salt to preserve food. Majestic salt flats are abundant across the northwest region up to north Cuyo (the southern frontier of the ancient Inca Empire).

Tamal (2021-01-11/2021-01-14) by Humberto MartinezGustar

Other examples of typical Argentinean recipes passed down from the natives are calapurca (a stew with meat seasoned with ground chili and cooked on hot stones heated by embers), and tamales, made with maize and with different fillings.

The Guaraní Legacy

The Guaraní were spread across the current territories of Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia. They were great fishermen, hunters and farmers.

Preparación de mate (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

The biggest legacy of Guaraní tradition is without a doubt the consumption of yerba mate, which was later strengthened by the arrival of Jesuit missions in the region from the 17th century.

Mónica y Leticia comen Mbejú (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

Guaraní tradition has a strong influence in many locations in Argentina, mainly in the Mesopotamian provinces. This is evidenced in recipes like chipá guazú, mbejú, chipá and Paraguayan soup, and many more.

Atardecer en el lago, Parque Nacional N ahuel Huapi, San Carlos de Bariloche (2021-02-08/2021-02-11) by Diego TorchiaGustar

In Patagonia

The Tehuelche, the Pehuenche, the Selk’nam and the Yaghan are some of the indigenous peoples who inhabited Patagonia, from the Pampas to the remote Tierra del Fuego. Due to rugged climate conditions, their food culture was based on hunting, fishing and gathering.

Costillitas de cordero, Colonia Suiza, San Carlos de Bariloche (2021-02-08/2021-02-11) by Diego TorchiaGustar

In Argentinean and Chilean Patagonia, the Mapuche dominated agriculture. Many of their culinary traditions live on in the region, such as curanto: a technique for cooking meat, fruit and vegetables with hot stones covered with dry leaves or linen.

On the endless Patagonian steppes, natives such as the Tehuelche mainly ate guanaco and lesser rhea (Patagonian ostrich) meat cooked on a raised grill.

In the Confines of the World

In Tierra del Fuego in the extreme south of Argentina and South America, the Selk’nam ate birds, eggs, guanacos, mushrooms, and seafood, while the Yaghan or Yamana—expert fishermen—did just that, catching fish and shellfish, as well as sea lions which they hunted with spears.

1 Rogelio_Espinosa-centolla BeagleGustar

Just like back then, Tierra del Fuego culinary tradition continues to be closely linked with seafood, with products like crab being a marker of quality and their identity.

Credits: Story

Publication: Diego Marinelli / Text: Juan Marinelli

Credits: All media
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