The most important factors affecting today’s cuisine culture in Latin American countries are African-based slave trade and mass migrations from Europe. Conquests, immigration and chiefs meeting with other cultures have played a great role in shaping this cuisine culture. Generally speaking, this culture mostly relies on European countries such as Portugal, French and Italian cuisine. Latin American market has a huge potential for companies that want to create difference in regions other than Arab countries, Russia, Europe, Turkic Republics and African countries and seek alternative markets.
The most basic feature of Latin America, located in the southern hemisphere, is that the temperature goes down as a person goes south. Depending on this reality, there are many different products. Today, the cuisine culture of Latin America, known as the new world, has been changed with discovery ages that brought Christopher Columbus to the shore of Latin America. One can see how “The Old World” met “The New World” as a result of the discovery age when one investigated the cuisine culture of countries in the region. As Spanish arrived in the new soils, the cuisine culture of the “Old World” has merged with local culinary culture, and this fusion created a rich cuisine culture.
Another important factor affecting the Latin American cuisine culture is the arrival of people, who was coerced to be slave, from African continent between the 17th and 19th centuries. Eating habits and rituals of these people that stepped in the Latin America have played a great role in Latin American cuisine culture. Likewise, as a result of mass emigration from Europe, mostly Italian and Spanish, to the Latin America towards the end of the 19th century, the cuisine culture of these mentioned countries merged with eating habits of local people, and these cultures were added in the Latin American cuisine.
As far as the topic of this article is considered, the cuisine cultures of Latin American countries, generally speaking, have strong resemblance with one another just like in many regions. The most important nutrition product of regional cuisine is pasta. This pasta culture, which was brought by Italians to the continent, showed itself in most countries. When the pasta consumption around the world is examined, it is seen that, South American countries have an important percentage in pasta consumption. According to the data, which was released by the International Pasta Organization (IPO), the consumption rate among the Latin American countries is higher than Italy, which is the leader country in pasta production. When looked at the types of pasta, although dry pasta is seemed to be holding the prominent position, it is interesting to see that fresh pasta has an important position in consumption as well.
Another remarkable point in the Latin American region is consumption of corn flour. In the countries apart from the wheat producers such as Argentina and Brazil, corn flour is more popular than wheat flour. Corn flour is used in making many baked goods, especially bread. In South American countries where snack culture has developed, stuffed biscuits are preferred. Products of many countries such as China, Taiwan, India, European and Russia have penetrated into the Latin American countries. When a person looks at the countries at the continent, they can see that Brazil and Argentina are the biggest countries in terms of economy and population. Now, let’s examine some countries in the region:
BREAD, PASTA AND BISCUIT IN BRAZIL
Brazilian cuisine is colorful just like its carnivals, dances, beaches and life. Brazil host Portuguese people, the first people who arrived from Europe to the South America, Europeans, Africans and different ethnic groups. Of course, this ethnic group has affected the cuisine culture, and created wide-ranging taste ranging from marine products to tropic fruits and to spicy foods. In Brazil, one can taste all kinds of pizza. In Brazil, the Italian cuisine showed its effect through pasta and pizza consumption. Bar-style pasta such as spaghetti, lasagna, lamen and yakisoba are consumed widely. Eighty percent of the consumed pasta is dry pasta while fifteen percent is noodle-style pasta and five percent is fresh pasta in Brazil.
Cookie-style snacks and bakery products other than pasta are also extensively consumed in the country. Salgadinhos, a small salty snack, is one of them. Pao de Queijo, which can be described as cheese straws, is a typical Brazilian snack. Manioc, which is used as flour in many regions, is extensively consumed in Brazil. Pao de Queijo, made up of small rolls, is prepared with manioc flour, milk, eggs and cheese. These types of muffins and bakery products are available as ready-to-use products from frozen and baked goods markets. Pao de Queijo is one of the most widely consumed pastries in Brazil in which one can see shops for this particular product at every corner. This product is consumed particularly during breakfast and at any moment during a day. Instead of baking this bread at their houses, Brazilian people prefer buying this product as ready-to-cook. For this reason, bakeries and café at every corner sell Pao de Queijo as fresh.
Esfiha is a kind of muffin, transferred from the Middle Eastern cuisine culture to Brazil. Meat, cheese, and vegetables are used as filling material of esfiha easily found everywhere especially in northeastern, south and southeastern regions of Brazil. Another bakery product is Pastéis from Chinese culture.
Brazil is the world’s third largest maker of pasta after Italy and the US, with a production exceeding one million tons. As a result of investments made after the 1990s, Brazil’s pasta production capacity has exceeded 1.4 million tons. “Macarrão” is the term used for pasta which is produced as many different types. Many producers in the sector produce pasta as well as bakery products such as flour, cake, and cookies.
Generally speaking, the pasta is produced through using bread wheat (soft wheat) in Brazil. Three percent of total production is produced from imported durum wheat. Wheat, the basic material of pasta, is cultivated at Parana and Rio Grande do Sul states in the southern region of Brazil. However, due to the inefficiency of wheat production to meet the needs, the lacking amount is usually imported from neighboring Argentina. Although Brazil is a good pasta producer, it resorts to import due to the heavy local demand. The country’s pasta import has increased through years, and now Italy is the most important supplier for pasta. Chile, Uruguay, France and Argentina are other important sources of supply.
BREAD, PASTA AND BISCUIT IN ARGENTINA
Argentina is one of the world’s largest food producers. The consumption of pasta and pizza due to the Italians is as common as meat consumption. Varieties of fresh pasta such as fideos (noddles-type), tallarines, noquis, patty, and canelones are produced and sold in many shops at big cities. Pasta varieties are not limited to these types in Argentina. Other pasta types can be listed as spaghetti, fusiles – a kind of spiral pasta, cintas – pasta strip, lasagna, Argentina made patty pasta – sorrentinos and agnolottis are consumed in the country as well.
Due to the fact that wheat is cultivated in significant proportions, the production of other bakery products and white bread also increased in the country. Although Argentinean people do not consume bread commonly, people put white bread at their tables due to extensive cultivation of wheat. Another bread type that is widely consumed apart from white bread is called as “sandwiches de miga.” This types of bread that are characterized as crustless have thin layers and are filled with different combinations of ham, cheese, tomato, olive, egg, tuna fish, lettuce, chili pepper and other similar tastes. Another important bakery product is empanadas. Consumed in Argentina and South American countries widely, empanadas is a type of traditional pastry whose inside is stuffed. Another popular bakery product is medialunas, which is similar to French croissant.
The intensity of wheat in Argentina also supported the spread of pasta and pizza cultures from the Italians. Pizzas made with very thin or thick pastries and cooked in brick oven are found in almost every corner of the country. In Argentina, per capita consumption of pasta is 7.9 kilograms, and the country consumes over 300 thousand tons of pasta each year.
BREAD, PASTA AND BISCUIT IN COLOMBIA
Like all Latin American countries, spice and meat are important in the Colombian cuisine. Rice varieties and small pitta breads, made up of corn and replaced traditional bread, are two important nutrition types. Another bread type is Pandebono, made up of corn flour, cheese and eggs and consumed as fresh. Tamales is a kind of corn dough stuffed with meat, chicken and vegetables. Pasta is widely consumed as well. Type of pasta consumed in Colombia is similar to the one in Brazil and Argentina.
There is a rich variety of bakery products and desserts in the country. Buñuelos is a popular fried food that exists in many South American countries and consumed as a snack. The Colombian version of this snack is prepared with quark cheese. Just like in other Latin American countries, Empanadas is popular in Colombia as well. Corn flour instead of wheat flour is preferred in Colombian bakery products.
VENEZUELA CONSUMES PASTA THE MOST FOLLOWING ITALY
In Venezuela, pasta is a very important food produced and consumed. Venezuela, which is the world’s largest pasta consuming country after Italy, is also among the top 10 pasta producers in the world. The per capita consumption of pasta in the country is 13.2 kilograms. Dry pasta accounts for 70 percent of total pasta production. The potato based Ñoquis is one of the popular pasta varieties from Venezuela, which comes from Italian culture. Pasticho is Venezuelan style lasagna.
Venezuelan people consume corn extensively, and Arepa bread, prepared with corn flour, is also common in Venezuela. Venezuela put quark cheese without salt into Arepa. These people consume fresh Arepa during breakfast; they also consume this bread at noon by filling it with meat, chicken or fish. Cachapa is a common bakery product made from corn flour and similar to crepe. Casabe is commonly consumed variety of bread. It is considered to be the oldest bread in America. Besito de Coco is a cookie made up of popular coconut balls.
In Venezuela, the consumption tendency of flour and bakery products is high and the consumption of pasta is increasing. Factors behind this tendency for pasta consumption are high inflation, rapidly increasing population, pasta being cheap, increasing possibilities for marketing and transportation, and the fact that women enter into labor market due to rapid urbanization.