There are many concepts and definitions of homeland. The majority is based on a relationship between a physical space, geographical and defined by language, culture, borders and traditions with an individual, whose emotional state echoes the same space.
These definitions have their justification when we analyze the term “homeland” focusing on its political or social nuance. By trying to explain “homeland” as a concept that goes beyond the role of citizen, beyond general traditions, and that is in a way closer to us and our home experiences, it is easier to put passports and borders aside and talk about what we eat.
Food defines us. Now when the human being stopped eating individually and began to gather his family or clan to share food together, I believe that at that precise moment, what we call “culture”, was born. Food is where everything starts, a basic need that we celebrate together. And the culinary traditions of our childhood mark us for life.
What’s your favorite breakfast? If you eat baguette with ham and cheese, you probably have French roots. If you love pancakes with maple syrup, you’re probably American. The Germans have black bread or fruit cereals for breakfast. And the Chilean doesn’t trade his butter toast for anything in the world. Did your mouth water? Well, I just got started.
In my childhood, I lived in Chile, but my parents’ home followed German traditions. That mixture is evident in my favorite foods: tomaticán, Klöße, Waffles with hot cherry sauce, and hallulla with butter and manjar.
Manjar is, in my opinion, the richest candy in the world. It is only surpassed in combination with a piece of toasted white bread – preferably hallulla, a circular bread with a slightly more compact dough – in which a good amount of butter is spread. It has to be so much butter that it won’t melt completely. While the bottom layer of butter touches the bread directly and melts, being absorbed by the bread, it remains a creamy layer, even of color. Quickly, a good amount of manjar is added and as the bread spreads, the creamy butter and manjar begin to mix, generating a veined appearance. That little bread with a cup of tea or coffee takes all sorts of problems, anxieties, fears and annoyances out of me in less than a blink of an eye. The best manjar is the one made at home, the recipe is easy, you only need a wooden spoon, a pot preferably of copper, milk, sugar, a stick of vanilla and some patience: Put 2 liters of milk in a pot, add 900 grams of sugar and vanilla stick. Put that mixture on high heat. When it starts to boil, stir with the wooden spoon. Lower the heat so that the milk does not spill and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook over low heat, always stirring slowly until thickened. After an hour of cooking and non-stop stirring you will see how the milk reduces and changes color. Continue mixing with the wooden spoon until it becomes more difficult to stir. When this happens, the manjar is ready.
Klöße is a German specialty and its recipes vary from region to region. My grandmother’s recipe was as follows: 500 grams of flour potato, 100 grams of cornstarch, an egg yolk, a tablespoon of butter, salt and nutmeg. Wash the potatoes and peel them, cut them into small pieces and cook them, let them cool a little and pass them through a press. Season with salt, butter and nutmeg. Mix with yolk and cornstarch. Spread your hands with water and make balls of the dough, small or big to taste. Place a pot of water to boil the Klöße. First cook a Kloß as proof. If disassembled, mix the dough with more cornstarch. If the test Kloß is successful, the other Klöße can be boiled. They should be boiled for 15 to 20 minutes. Klöße are served with baked meat, with lots of gravy. However, in restaurants with traditional German cuisine, Klöße are also offered on their own, accompanied by some sauce. It is best to leave them for the next day, slice them and fry them in butter, until they are golden on both sides. Accompanied with meat juice or thick dark gravy they are a delight.
The tomaticán brings together what I liked best in vegetables when I was a child: tomatoes and corn on the cob. (corn on the cob is called Choclo in Chile). In Chile, this is a very popular stew, which is normally enjoyed in summer, because during that time of the year you will find fresh ingredients. The tomaticán can be accompanied with cooked rice or potatoes, or simply with sliced bread. You need 4 medium tomatoes, 2 or 3 corn (on the cob) medium shelled, 1 onion (I like to replace the onion with ginger, that gives a spicy touch to the tomaticán) cut into strings, garlic, 300gr of meat (in my house we did it with ground meat, but it is usually done with simmered juicy beef or lean slices of rump beef, cut into strips), chili powder, oregano, chopped green paprika, 2 cups of beef broth or water (it could also be a cup of water and a cup of white wine) salt, pepper, oil. Fry the onion, add the meat and sauté it, then add the paprika. Add the destemmed corn and the chopped tomato. Add the dressings, stir well and add the water or meat broth. Cover the pot and cook for about 10 minutes. Try not to re-cook, as the ingredients should feel “al dente”. And that’s it! I remember that our employee, housekeeper and finally family member used to cook the tomatican that I readily devoured. My mother sometimes tried to cook it in Germany, to remember our beloved Chile, and when I tasted it, I always said to her: “You didn’t cook bad, but in Chile it tastes better. I don’t know why, I guess tomatoes and corn in Chile are more intense in flavor, or maybe it was the ground beef instead of the mixed meat in Germany. Anyway, it’s still a favorite dish of mine, and I associate this food with summer, beach and tropical heat.
Waffles are sweet and originally French, which is known throughout central Europe as a dessert or accompaniment for tea. There is an endless variety of this dough and each family cultivates its own recipe. When my grandparents died, my uncles and mother found the waffle iron from my great-grandmother, and in unison shouted “Zimtwaffeln” and their mouths watered. The same day we made cinnamon waffles, Zimtwaffeln, following my great-grandmother Emilie’s recipe that I share with you now: you need 625 grams of sugar, 6 eggs, 375 grams of butter, cinnamon and flour. The sugar, eggs, butter and cinnamon are mixed, and flour is added until it has enough consistency. The waffles are cooked in the iron and hopefully served hot. Traditionally, in Germany they are served with a hot cherry sauce, but my great-grandmother’s recipe accompanied cinnamon waffles with cream.
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Soledad Marquez is German and Chilean; born in Germany, she grew up in Chile and Brazil, studied in Germany and lives now in her homeland of heart, in Chile, at the sea. She studied Spanish, French and Portuguese Literature and loves books. She also likes to go surfing and to collect seashells while walking at the beach with her husband and her daughter.