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 America 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 'caraotas'. 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 'caraotas' 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).
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 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 illegal 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!