It's been strange because I have not been feeling the Christmas spirit down here in Chile. Not only does it feel like Spring/Summer and missing are the usual smells of fallen leaves and wood-burning chimneys, but the Christmas spirit arrived a little later than it usually does in the US. Maybe it's because they don't celebrate Thanksgiving or because they're on Latino time? At any rate, malls haven't been playing Christmas music since November and they only put up a Christmas tree at ECIM last week.
I only started to get in the Christmas spirit yesterday. The ECIM Christmas party is tonight, which has finally put me in the Christmas mood. I went to San Antonio yesterday to buy a gift for my 'amigo secreto' (Secret Santa) at the Christmas fair in the plaza. I also went searching for ingredients for the food item I decided to bring.
I decided to make biscochitos! They are obviously not paleo or primal, although they are ancestral! I wanted to share with everyone a treat from my New Mexican heritage that I associate with Christmas in the US. The idea initially came to me when thinking of something to bring to Christmas Eve dinner at my friends in Santiago. The ECIM party provided the perfect opportunity to try the recipe out first.
The best part of the recipe is that it calls for lard, which brings me to a topic that I've been wanting to bring up about food in Chile. When I went to the market to look for lard, I thought 'I'm in a Latino country, there should be lots of options.' Boy was I wrong. There was only one kind of real lard. But there were about ten different types of 'manteca modificada', basically processed lard that is made instead with vegetable oils and trans-fats. But it's not just manteca that is processed, the rest of the refrigerator section is filled with margarines and no-fat or low-fat yogurts that are equally as processed:
As I mentioned in a previous post, the nutrition recommendations of a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet are just as prevalent in Chile as in the US. Chile is also the South American country with the highest rate of obesity, which provides even more support that implementation of these nutrition recommendations are correlated with a rise in obesity. But I feel like it's more 'in your face' here. Every Friday the news has an hour-long section on diet and health in which they demonize fats and promote fiber and whole grains. There's also the equivalent of the Dr. Oz show. And the topic of how fats are bad and carbs are good has come up with almost every person I've talked to, without me bringing it up first. But as I've come to learn that animal fats do not cause heart disease but trans-fats and sugars do, the supermarket refrigerator cases full of margarines and non-fat or low-fat yogurts have really left me shocked and saddened.
But back to the issue at hand: biscochos! The recipe also called for anís, which was the most difficult ingredient to find. They didn't have anís seed, but only the flavoring which would have to do. Not to mention that the ground cinnamon here is not very fine, so the cookies look a little weird. It also called for brandy, but I decided to give it a Chilean twist by adding pisco. The result?
Delicious! (yes, I tried a few. Ok, five. Hey, I needed to get in the holiday spirit!) Although the anís flavor is more subtle than I like and the cinnamon makes the cookies look burned, the lard gave the cookies the perfect crispy texture. I also think it helped modulate the same buzzy, I'm gonna have a panic attack feeling that I get now from refined sugar and flour. I've tried other biscocho recipes before, but this one is definitely the best. And they would be even better back in the US, where I know where to find the right ingredients ;)