Published on Latino American Today, January 2014 -by Amalia Moreno Damgaard. What makes Latin cuisine so hot? It depends who you ask.
Despite the recent buzz in the US and elsewhere, let´s clarify that Latin cuisine is still an undiscovered group of cuisines from ancient and diverse ethnicities and cultures. The population of Latin America and land mass as a whole are greater than that of the United States. The Latin region comprises 20 countries with very distinctive customs, traditions, dialects, language (Brazil), topographies, climates, fauna and flora diversity and much more.
There are similarities and commonalities but because of the vast offering, one cannot bundle all Latin countries into one simmering pot of flavors. This is the challenge at fully grasping what Latin cuisine is all about. A systematic approach might shed some light in getting closer to understanding and appreciating Latin cultures in their own right. Trying to wrap one´s arms around the entire continent will prove frustrating and confusing. A better system can be exploring and learning about one country at a time. Think of a puzzle in which every piece has a lot of information to offer.
Throughout my professional culinary journey as an author, chef and cultural strategist, I realized long ago that it takes time and effort to be fully proficient at any one cuisine. Is not that also true about other things in life? It takes constant work, practice, lots of reading and studying, experimenting, testing and tasting lots of delicious flavors. I am referring specifically to Latin cuisine even though the world has a massive cuisine that when broken into regions it´s again huge. For those with a passion for food, the globe is definitely a fun culinary playground to explore.
As a proud Latina and Guatemalan-American chef, I savor every day the beauty and diversity of my own culture. I am motivated to learn more and more because there´s so much unexplored richness and diversity. Often times, the public only sees the surface of Latin cuisine and because of this, I made it my mission to expose the inner beauty. The more I study, write and explore, the more I realize how much more I still need to learn. Briefly, Guatemalan open markets with their bounty of fresh produce and other exotic ingredients, its 22 Mayan ethnicities and other influences, makes for a very interesting land to explore, not only because of the unpretentious delicious colorful cuisines, but because of the majestic sights and traditions and charm of its people. Just think about what each of the other Latin countries has to offer!
Life is an open book full of delicious surprises for everyone to explore.
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!