Thursday, November 05, 2009

Gastro-Geographical Linguistic Tour of Latin America

Mexico was the first Latin country I ever lived in. I loved Mexico because they make some great foods! I loved the enchiladas and mole! The tacos and quesadillas. I loved it all! But after  I spent a year in language school in Mexico I assumed I could speak Spanish in any Latin country and it would all be understood. I made sure to learn the names of my favorite foods, because, well, food is very important to me!

So I knew a 'torta' was a sandwich and a  'tortilla' was a flour or corn flat bread. Beans were frijoles. I love to drink coke so I knew to ask for 'coca'. Pop corn, a good snack, is 'palomitas' which is easily remembered because it mean 'little doves'.

Good to go!

And then I moved to Venezuela. Suddenly, a 'torta' was not a sandwich but a cake! A' tortilla' was an omelet and beans were 'caraota's. Oh yeah,' tacos'? Those are soccer cleats! Not tasty at all!

I learned new words for my favorite foods. 'Lomito' was  the best cut of beef.' Pasteles' were pastries. 'Perico' was scrambled eggs with onions, tomatoes, and peppers. I loved the 'panes with mantequilla' (bread and butter). Also it is best not to ask for coca! It is sold by the kilo and is a white powdery substance... one must ask for a 'refresco'. And popcorn is 'cotufa', so no more little doves.

Then I visited Costa Rica. I asked for a 'torta' and they said,"QUEQUE" (what? what?). I asked again, "Torta, por favor" and they handed me some cake, but said, "QUEQUE". Oh, like 'Cake' but said in Spanish. Gotcha! And passion fruit is not parchita but maracuya. ok then...

Then I moved to Paraguay where my favorite legumes are not 'frijoles' nor 'caraotos' but...habichuleas or porotos. But 'porotos' confuses me because here the popcorn is 'pororo'  Passion fruit, which I knew as 'parchita' or 'maracuya', is mburucuya. If I want bread and butter, I have to ask for cookies with lard! 'Galletas con manteca' is 'pan con mantequilla' (bread and butter).

Confused yet?

If I want a good steak, I don't ask for a 'lomito' because that will be a sandwich.  And a 'mixto', which in Venezuela would be a sandwich with beef, pork and chicken, is just a plain ham and cheese on pita bread here.  'Perico', the scrambled eggs is' Bandera espanola'... but who wants to eat a Spanish flag???

Then we come to the 'yerba'! The 'weed' everyone uses every day in large amount. Its sold on the grocery store shelves and even strangers on the street will offer you free weed. In Venezuela 'yerba' is an ilegal substance usually smoked by teens!  And no 'coca' or 'refresco' here, its a 'gaseosa' which sounds a bit repulsive!

And now we come to Argentina where everything is different yet again. 'Yerba' isn't yerba but 'mate' and it must have sugar added!

When my husband went to the coffee shop in Argentina he ordered his usual 'cafe'.

"Would you like that with a  factura ( bill/check)?" they asked him.

"Well, yes, but when I am finished." he said.

"But Senor, don't you want your factura now, while your coffee is still hot?" They politely insisted.

"Ok, but I may wish to order a second cup of coffee and you will have to add it to my bill." he replies.

And then the waiter brings him his coffee and a pastel (pastry) which is called a 'factura' (bill/check).

And yes, it would be best eaten with the hot coffee after all!


Tamika: said...

Funny and scary!! I would never make it!

GutsyWriter said...

You explain the differences in each country in a humorous and clever manner. As long as you get cake, omelet or tortilla, it's edible.

Betty said...

So Spanish is not Spanish after all? :)
I guess each country has to have it´s own identity and this is their way....

John_n_Tascha_Piatt said...

OH MY... sounds fun :D

FJ said...

If only the differences were limited to foods...

Kathy said...

Oh boy! No wonder I'm having trouble learning Spanish! Here we get Venezuelan--and of course Paraguayan! :) Remember when I told you I made my mother-in-law laugh when I thought Choclo empanadas were chocolate? Hey, maybe I'll bring some Nutella spread and make some "Choco" empanadas! (Do you want me to bring you some???)

Brenda said...

Don't you just love it?! I think its fascinating. I would like to collect all the different names for popcorn in Spanish.

The Hermit said...

I learned "Spanish" in California and New Mexico. When I worked in Rota, Spain and got to travel a good bit in Spain, I found out that my "Spanish" was not what the people there spoke.

Anonymous said...

You should try speaking American English in Britain. I remember in Scotland a big board in front of a souvenir shop: English spoken, American understood. And yet people from Edinburgh would have trouble understanding people from Ayr and Londoners would have a hard time understanding Glaswegians.
I remember how they smiled when a US American teacher said at noon in the staffroom that she had forgotten all her pants in America.
You probably know in Britain you don't use fan...packs but hip packs.

MightyMom said...

thanks for the headache! haha
I'll stick to TexMex thanks.

Carol said...

Having lived in Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela I thought I knew all the words for 'green beans'; vainicas, habichuelas, ejotas. Just met someone from Panama who told me they are called something like 'judeos verdes'. "Green Jews"? In Costa Rica and Colombia bananas are bananas but in Mexico they are 'platano', even the kind you don't cook. Now I find out that in VZ bananas are 'campur'. It took over a year of living in VZ to figure out what that was. And silly me thought papaya was papaya throughout the Western Hemisphere, not if you are in VZ, it is 'lechosa'. Which bring to mind 'leche', but there's no 'milk' in that fruit. I could go on and go, as you wrote, torta isn't a cake everywhere you go and frijoles certainly aren't frijoles everywhere. Thanks for sharing! We all speak English but 'lorry', 'lift', 'flat', 'bonnet', 'boot', 'que', and 'lew' come to mind immediately are words that are different between the UK and the USA.

Gringo said...

I have decorated a T-shirt of Che with a sentence in Argentine slang and grammar (sos, not eres) that I doubt anyone outside of Argentina would understand:

Si sos hincha de Che, sos hincha de pelotudo sin cerebro.

Jungle Mom said...

Gringo, lets see..."Si sos hincha de Che, sos hincha de pelotudo sin cerebro."
Something like," If you are a fan of Che, you are supporting a ...imbecile????... with no brain."
I am afraid of the one word!

Gringo said...

You've got it! The missing word, well, some may consider it of the four letter variety, though I heard it daily when I lived in Argentina.Definitely an insult. It is a stronger way of saying idiot/brain-dead etc. So I did some repeating for emphasis.

A lot of the Argentine slang is common to its neighbors. I have heard Chileans use "guita" for money,for example. Ditto "vivo" as a con man. One time in a local bookstore I overheard someone say "Que bárbaro": Argentines far from home.

If you wish to get a more precise but not so nice meaning, you can Google urban dictionary.

Abby said...

I know! I said 'orale' to a guy from Chile and he didn't understand. I said 'que onda?' and he said to them, it sounds aggressive. :D