The Roscón de Reyes and The Epiphany

Around this time of year it is great to celebrate the traditions that we hold dear to our hearts but it can also be fun to learn a little about how other countries celebrate the holidays.  Some of us Latinos celebrate what is known as Die de Reyes or King’s Day.

You may have more of a clue as to what this holiday means when I tell you that it is also known as Three Kings Day.  This is the day in which the Three Kings from the East also known as the three wise men also known as the Magi traveled to see baby Jesus and present them with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  This is known as The Epiphany; the day that the son of god was incarnated into human form as Jesus Christ.

So how does one celebrate Three Kings Day?  While there are many traditions that go hand in hand with Día de Reyes this article is to be about the roscón de reyes.

Roscón de reyes is a traditional dessert that is eaten on King’s Day which falls on January 6th.  It is usually round or oval in shape and it has a special meaning that pertains to the holiday which is celebrated in many Latin countries and even in France.

The Cake

At a glance, roscón de reyes looks a lot like a Bundt cake or a fruit cake and it does share some similarities to both. It is baked in a roundish shape like a Bundt cake and includes fruit like a fruit cake. However, unlike both of those cakes, roscón de reyes is filled with cream at the center and there is another surprise hidden inside the cream. It is traditional to include a small figurine inside the cake for children. The cake is sliced up and served and all the children hope to have been given the slice with the gift inside.

The Roscon de Reyes and the Epiphany

The Roscon de Reyes and the Epiphany

The Roscón de Reyes and The Epiphany

The main point of the roscón de reyes and the Epiphany is that the cake and the gift inside reflect the gift that the Three Kings from the East gave to Jesus.  The figurine is sometimes of the baby Jesus himself and that variation hearkens to the story of Mary and Joseph who had to flee their home from King Herod who aimed to slay the baby messiah. Thus, the roscón de reyes and the Epiphany go hand in hand.

A Simple Recipe of Roscón de Reyes

If you want to try your hand at making Roscón de reyes here is a simple recipe.

  1. Blend sugar and citrus zest.
  2. Dissolve yeast with warm milk in a large bowl.
  3. Add the sugar and citrus zest plus 2 eggs, orange, flower, water and salt to the large bowl and stir.
  4. Add flower to the warm milk.
  5. Knead dough until it is smooth.
  6. Cover the bowl and let sit for an hour.
  7. Work the dough into a log about 30 inches long and two and a half inches thick then join the ends to form a circle.
  8. Place the circular dough on a baking sheet and put it in the oven at low heat for about an hour.
  9. Remove the pan, break an egg over the dough and place your dried fruits and candy on top
  10. And return the dough to the oven at 400 degrees for about another half hour.

If you venture to make the roscón de reyes send me some pictures, I would love to publish them here!

Christmas Foods in Argentina

When most people think about Christmas they think about cold climates and warm food but should you find yourself in Argentina during the holiday season you will experience a much different atmosphere.

As you probably already know when it is winter for us here in the Northern Hemisphere it is summer for those in South America and their winter cuisine reflects that fact.  The Argentines have a very unique tradition when it comes to Christmas meals.  They do not eat roasted turkey and ham like we do in the states.

Vitel Thone

Sitting around the dinner table for an Argentine Christmas meal, you are sure to see slices of meat topped with a whitish cream being consumed.  Vitel Thone is one of the most popular and traditional dishes for Christmas Eve in Argentina and it is a dish that is very unique.

First of all it has its roots in Italy.  As you also probably already know Argentina has a very strong German and Italian influence and Vitel Thone definitely comes from the old country.  Essentially it is a dish composed of sliced veal and topped with a sauce made of mayonnaise, anchovies and tuna.

The veal is roasted in a large ceramic pot and thrown in with quarters of onions and large slices of carrots.  Water is also added for steaming.  You cook this mixture for about three hours and then the veal is ready to be sliced.

The sauce is a mixture of onion, anchovies, milk cream and lots of mayonnaise. Tuna is traditionally added to the sauce but some leave it out depending on individual tastes.  Once you have the veal cooked and sliced and the sauce whisked, preparation is relatively simple.  Just arrange the slices on a plate and evenly spread the sauce over the flanks of meat and enjoy.

Christmas Foods In Argentina

Christmas Foods In Argentina

Christmas Foods in Argentina  –  Cool Foods for a Hot Climate

This is where Christmas foods in Argentina really start to differ from what we perceive to be typical of holiday foods.  Since it is so hot during Christmas in Argentina, Argentine Christmas foods include plenty of cold served dishes for the sake of refreshment.

Waldorf salad which is essentially a mixture of walnuts, apples, celery and peanuts in mayonnaise and served atop lettuce leaves is a common site for Argentine Christmas meals.  It is also common to see cold sandwiches served as part of the complete Argentine Christmas meal.

Drinks

What holiday gathering would be complete without a drink?  In Argentina the libation of choice for Christmas is Anana Fizz which is a sparkling mixture of cider and pineapple juice.  Of course Argentina makes some of the finest wines in the world so expect to see the vino flowing around the dinner table as well.

Sweets

The Argentine Christmas meal is topped off with a variety of sweets that include pan dulce or sweet bread that is baked with dried fruit.  Nougat is also popular in the hot Argentine climate and is shared during the holiday season.  Perhaps the most popular brand of nougat candy in Argentina is Mantecol so you can find it in any Argentine grocery store.

It seems that grilling is an year-round thing in Argentina so don’t be surprised if you see the parrillada, or grill all fired up and topped with meats like pig and chicken.  You can read a whole lot more about South American Christmas foods here.  Eat, read and enjoy!

Medellin Christmas Lights

We have talked about traveling to Medellin and things to do there.  Hopefully I have mentioned the best times to visit Medellín but if I have somehow up to now neglected such information, let me take this time to offer up a glimpse of what Medellín Christmas lights experience is.

As winter is now in full swing and I am filled with the Christmas spirit, it brings to mind the stunning Christmas lights of Medellín.  You can probably see where I am going with this now but let me spell it out in plain English just in case: one of the best times you can visit Medellín, Colombia is during the month of December if only to experience the Medellín Christmas lights

That’s right I said experience, not see.  Medellín Christmas lights are an experience as the whole city is adorned in brilliant light and breathtaking designs.  If you are in Medellín during the holiday you must visit the Medellin River.  Millions of dollars are spent each year for Medellin Alumbrados (Medellin Christmas lighting) and the river decorations are the focal point of the effort.

The designs are amazing.  There are the traditional images you think of when you think of Christmas like candy canes and Santa Claus and then there are unique and artistic lighting designs.  For example you will probably see huge fish composed of light and wire framing along the river as well as lily pads lit up in green hovering above the water.

Medellín goes big too.  The sizes of the lighting installments are enormous.  Entire buildings are blanketed in light.  Major thoroughfares are lined top to bottom, end to end with stellar points of illumination.  You will likely see giant flowers, birds, Christmas presents and even elves represented in glorious light.

Medellin Christmas Lights

Medellin Christmas Lights

Medellín Christmas Lights Are a Serious Tradition

You may have thought that Christmas lights were a big deal here in the States but Colombians take their X-mas lights very seriously.  The tradition was born in 1851 when the Plaza Mayor was the locale for the very first public Alumbrados in Medellin.  It was revamped in 1955 when the Empresas Publicas de Medellin was formed.  The EPM is essentially a utility company and they took it upon themselves to revive the tradition and are now major players of the Alumbrados every year.

The Medellin Alumbrados exemplify the Christmas themes of unity and peace quite well because the whole ordeal is very much a community effort.

The EPM organizes most of the lighting but the community is called upon for help and ideas for concepts.  The whole thing really is an experience.  For example in 2014 there was not only a theme to the lighting but a story to go along with the installments as well.  The story was about a girl named Paloma who traveled down the Medellin River to learn about important human values.

Each year has a different theme that reflects the traditions of Colombia and the Christmas spirit as well.  The EPM and volunteers spend the whole month of November preparing for the Alumbrado and the lights are usually switched on and presented on December 7th the day before celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception or el día de las velitas.  Thousands of tourists descend on Medellin every holiday season just to see these world famous lights.

A Site that Words Fail

To put it simply, words cannot convey the beauty of the Alumbrado Navideño.  The installments are wondrous, enchanting, inspiring and oddly humbling.  The behemoths of light make you feel small somehow and their beauty make one appreciate the grander aesthetics of the world.

The Medellín Christmas lights can take you to another world and make you see our world in a new way.  You can spend hours wandering around the city and taking in the lights which would be worth the trip alone.

So, if you were to ask me about the best times to visit Medellin, December would definitely be one of them. For more about Colombian culture, read visiting Medellín during Feria de Las Flores.

Main Ingredients in Mexican Food

I have very fond memories from childhood of my mother cooking in the kitchen traditional Spanish and Mexican dishes. Associated with those memories are a host of sensory impressions, most prominent being smell.  Her cooking would fill the whole house with delicious scents emanating from the main ingredients in Mexican food that were always present in our home.

Main Ingredients in Mexican Food

For anyone who doesn’t already know I am pleased to bring you the most important ingredients (at least in my opinion) in traditional Mexican food.

Avocados

If you do not have avocados stocked in your pantry you are missing out on a host of delicious Mexican dishes.  Avocados most prominently are used to make guacamole.  I remember my mother’s homemade guacamole.  She used 5-8 avocados, added diced onions a little sugar and lime juice.  Of course, guacamole can also be used as a topping for many traditional Mexican foods such as tortas.

Tomatoes

While tomatoes may be an important staple the world over, the Mexican use of tomatoes reaches into almost every dish which is why it is on this list.  Personally, my mother used tomatoes to make her Spanish rice.  She also included it in tortilla soup, steak picado and even her guacamole.

Poblanos

The thing I like most about Mexican food is that it is spicy but not esophageal erosion spicy.  One of the secrets to attaining this perfect balance of spice, mildness and flavor is the use of poblano chilies. They can be used in a variety of ways but I remember them being used mainly in homemade salsas and chili rellenos.

Main Ingredients In Mexican Food

Main Ingredients In Mexican Food

Limes

I may be overstating a concept that is fundamentally simple but in my opinion, limes make all Mexican foods better.  In my house, limes were usually chopped into quarters and served on a small dish on the dinner table for everyone to grab and squeeze onto their food as they wished.

One of the best uses for limes from my childhood home was to squeeze a whole quarter slice’s worth of lime juice into my mother’s Albondigas (meatball soup).

Mexican Cheese

If you have ever eaten a Mexican dish in your life you probably know how important queso is to Mexican cuisine.  Take for example the Enchilada.  An enchilada is like Mexican lasagna and it relies heavily on cheese.

My sister makes some killer enchiladas and her cheese of choice is queso fresco.  It gives the dish a bit of natural saltiness and melts to perfection. Pepperjack cheese was also a pretty common cheese in my home growing up for making quesadillas.  It added a good level of spiciness…before tapatío was inevitably added of course.  Last but not in any way least…

Tortillas

I couldn’t think of any food more essential to Mexican cuisine or any better way to round off this list than the all-important tortilla.  My mother use to tell me stories about growing up poor in Los Angeles and how her mother, no matter how bad things were would always have tortillas in the house.  She would give my mom and my aunts and uncle flour tortillas adorned with nothing more than melted butter when things were especially tight.

Tortillas are more than a staple food for the poor of course.  My mom never made her own but she always went to tortillerías to buy freshly made corn and flour tortillas.  I remember using flour tortillas to sop up the juices from steak picado, scooping up Spanish rice with sour cream into a tortilla, and dousing a corn tortilla with the broth from my mother’s albondigas.

Tortillas are indispensible ingredients in enchiladas and of course tacos and burritos as well as other traditional Mexican dishes that I am sure I am forgetting.

Well there you have it; my list of the most important ingredients in Mexican cuisine.  For more information on other main ingredients in Mexican food, check out this article about Mexican Chocolate.

 

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day in the Catholic Church that is celebrated every year on December 8th.  It is a day that shows just how important a figure the Virgin Mary is to Latinos and Catholics all over the world.  You may be thinking right off the bat that the feast of the Immaculate Conception is the day that Mary was impregnated with Christ but that is a popular mistake that people make.  In fact the feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates Mary’s own birth.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Reasoning

It seemed incumbent for the Catholic Church to stress the special way not only that Christ was born, but also the unique and holy way that his mother was born as well.  In 1854 Pope Pius IX made it dogma the concept of Mary’s birth: she was not born of a virgin birth but at her conception, she was absolved of the original sin that tarnished every human being upon conception.

This was necessary if she was to ultimately become the virgin mother of the messiah.  This exception not only made her conception holy, but her entire life as well because it was also accepted as Dogma that Mary never sinned a day in her life and was kept consecrated so that she could give the purest of births to Christ.

This is another reason why Mary is prayed to and seen as such an important figure in the Catholic Church. She is the only human being to have never committed one transgression against God.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception Day

Now that we have a bit of background on the feast of the Immaculate Conception let’s talk about how it is celebrated and why it is important in the Latin community.  Immaculate Conception day has actually been made a public holiday in many Latin countries. However, no matter what country you are in, if you are of the Catholic faith the feast of the Immaculate Conception is a day of obligation.  This means that mass must be attended.  The mass is the focal point of the celebration.

It is celebrated in different ways all over the world.  For example, one tradition of the holiday is The Dance of the Six which is essentially a procession of children dressed in especially bejeweled garments carry a likeness of Mary over their heads through the streets.

In Nicaragua, the day resembles what we Americans would see as a combination of 2 big holidays in our country.  They set up alters in front of their homes and neighbors come by and sing songs and to exchange gifts.  Kind of sounds like carolers on Christmas right?  When the evening falls, firecrackers are lit in the streets.  Sort of sounds like Independence Day doesn’t it?

At any rate, no matter where you are or how you celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, there is a very strong, spiritual unifying theme that is present.  At its heart the feast of the Immaculate Conception is a day to focus on one’s own spirituality and relationship with god.  This is why it is so important in Latino culture.

We are meant to draw closer to god by drawing closer to our family and focusing on being more like Mary and Christ.  For more information about the traditions of this holiday check out Little Candles Day in Colombia.

The History of Bullfighting – Tradition or Enjoyment of Tragedy

The history of bullfighting has to be told with lots of facts that get misconstrued throughout the years.  One example, the bulls used for the actual fights are not starved for the fight, instead a specially bred charging bull is used for the spectacle that has a natural penchant to charge at moving objects-the fact still remains that an innocent animal is plucked, culled and ultimately executed for the amusement of a gawking rabble.

The history of bullfighting stretches back almost 2,000 years and its roots are archaic and planted in a time of un-enlightenment and barbarism. Not that we are all that much smarter nowadays but it seems almost insane to still practice a spectacle that has such primal origins.

The History of Bullfighting – A Brief Review

As far as historians can tell, the origins of bullfighting emerged from the Spanish War of Reconquest.  When the fighters grew weary from battle, they would engage in slightly less brutal practices as recreation.  They hunted game like deer and bear but even slaying a bear was not enough of a thrill for these ancient warriors.  Instead, they took to fighting the Iberian bull whose traits include aggression and a willingness to go to their death fighting.  This became a sport and soon, Spanish kings were organizing bullfights for their coronations and other important ceremonies.

The sport carried on throughout the centuries and grew to what it is today which is not very different from what it was as far back as the 1700’s.  Although when most people think of bullfighting they immediately think of Spain, the sport is legal and enjoyed by fans in other countries such as France, Peru, Ecuador, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela.  In fact the largest venue for bullfights resides in Mexico City, Mexico.

The History of Bullfighting - Tradition or Enjoyment of Tragedy

The History of Bullfighting – Tradition or Enjoyment of Tragedy

The Reasoning Behind the Fights

Fans of bullfighting cite a number of aesthetics that make the practice enjoyable.  The contest isn’t about winning or losing, it isn’t about who gets gored and who doesn’t, it’s not even about whether the bull dies or not.  Instead proponents of bullfighting say that is an elegant dance between man and beast.  The thrill is in seeing the skill and tact of the fighter who attempts to get as close to the bull’s charging horns as possible without being demolished by them.

The whole scene is very decadent and opulent: the matadors enter the arena wearing intricately embroidered suits that cost thousands of dollars.  There is a pageantry about the whole ordeal but also a savage likeness to the gladiator fights of ancient Rome that pit human against both animal and other humans.

Bullfighting is not a sport.  It is a show.  I for one abhor it altogether and cannot comprehend those who attend bullfights knowing that they will more than likely see the slaughter of an innocent animal.  While many fans say it is not the actual killing that is the main attraction but rather the composure in the face of danger, the grace, skill and elegance of the matador, the kill move is still a very precise maneuver that is lauded if done particularly well.

There are entire fairs dedicated to bullfighting and one example is the San Fermín Festival in Spain.  The history of bullfighting – the tradition or enjoyment of tragedy?  This is a question I answer with barbarism.  For however refined and civilized we humans can claim to now be, we still take part in this practice that stems from a very dark, violent and base era of history.

5 Reasons Every Man Should Date A Latina

I have already talked about why Latinas like to marry Gringo men but now let’s flip the tables and talk about the many benefits that come with dating a Latina.

It was pretty hard to narrow the list down but I think I have distilled the field into the best 5 reasons why every man should date a Latina.  Mind you we are not talking about marriage necessarily but I feel it incumbent upon me to implore the men of the world, Hispanic or otherwise to at least date a Latina once in their lives.  So let’s get started.

5 Reasons Every Man Should Date A Latina

Femininity

I have come across a lot of Anglo women who for some reason or another choose to suppress their femininity and to be cruelly honest, it seems neurotic.  Why deny biological roles?  This by and large is not a neurosis that Latina women are prone to.  They embrace their femininity which honestly makes a man feel like a man.  They wear dresses, heels and accentuate their glorious bodily gifts as opposed to hiding them away in some sort of misguided protest against the establishment.

Food

I ask you again; did you really think we weren’t going to talk about food here?  Mexican and really any Hispanic cuisine is delicious.  I’m sorry but there’s just no denying it and while not all Latinas learn how to cook (I know it’s a crying shame) you will most likely be privy to some one of a kind home cooking if you are dating a Latina.

5 Reasons Every Man Should Date A Latina

5 Reasons Every Man Should Date A Latina

Spirit

Have you ever dated a woman that was timid, shy or didn’t like to hang out with your friends?  I have and it puts a strain on the relationship when you feel like you have to tend to them at social gatherings and that they are attached to your hip.

Latina women are confident and outgoing and while this can sometimes work to their disadvantage it is nice to know that you will not have to coddle your significant other at every turn.

Family

This is something I have witnessed firsthand when my sister married a Jewish man: if the family is accepting of you then you will earn a support system that is fiercely loyal and nurturing.  My mother loves my brother-in-law as we all do and he has the benefit of adding strong men and maternal women to his family.

Fun

Having dated Latina women I can say that one of the best things about it, to me at least is the amount of fun you can have with them.  Latina women are spirited.  They like to go out.  They can be restless which again, can work to their detriment but is more often than not, energy put to good use.  Whether you are hitting the town or spending the night in Latina women have a way of making everything more lively.

I have been asked how it is dating a Latina woman and the truth is, like every other type of woman, you take the good with the bad.

Latinas are strong, opinionated and incredibly devoted and any of those traits when taken to the extreme can be dangerous.  Still, if you are lucky enough to find a Latina who can temper those attributes, do your best to hold onto her as she will surely add to the quality of your life and that is why every man should date a Latina.

24 Hours in Santiago Chile

Your travel itinerary for South America is probably jam packed but if you are going to pass through Santiago, Chile you should really take some time to see the sites. But what if you only have 24 hours in Santiago Chile? A lot of people simply pass through Santiago on their way to other locales and that is fine because below is the ultimate guide for making the most of 24 hours in Santiago Chile.

Eating  While Enjoying 24 Hours in Santiago Chile

Let’s go in chronological order. Let’s assume that you arrive in Santiago sometime in the morning and what is the first thing you are going to want to do in the A.M. hours in Santiago? What else? Eat! Santiago is home to some of the most unique cuisine in the world so start your24 hours in Santiago Chile the right way by fueling yourself for the rest of the day with authentic Chilean cuisine.

A Completo may make you feel more at home because it is essentially a burger or hotdog Chilean style. Topped with avocado and mayonnaise a Completo is sure to get you ready for your big day out. You can also go more authentic with a Pastel de Choclo which is a hearty dish of meat and vegetables covered with something similar to the crust of a pot pie.

Enjoy the Weather

Now that you are all fueled up, segue into the afternoon by enjoying the amazing Santiago weather and visiting the Santiago Sculpture Park. This is an open air exhibit located in a beautiful stretch along the Mapocho River featuring many unique and inspiring sculptures from renowned Chilean artists. While you are strolling in the sunshine, try some Chilean Helado (ice cream) to refresh you.

24 Hours In Santiago Chile

24 Hours In Santiago Chile

While the gorgeous Chilean sun is waning you may want to check out one of Santiago’s world famous wineries. Taste some wine and toast your day in Santiago as the warm twilight showers you and heralds in the night.

Party

If you have been following this blog you probably know 2 things to be true: we love food and we love night life. No 24 hours in Santiago Chile is complete without a taste of its nightlife. You can kick off the night with a trip to The Black Rock Pub where you can try some home-brewed Chilean beers like Kross and Prima.

Once you are feeling loose you may want to hit up one of Santiago’s Salsa clubs where you can see professionals exhibit their flavorful art form and get in on the fun for yourself. There are tons of live salsa bands playing on any given night in Santiago so just follow your ears through the night streets. Again for the music lovers, you will be happy to know that Santiago has a great Jazz scene so that means plenty of hip clubs to choose from. One of the most famous is Club de Jazz but if you are looking for a more low key night of music check out The Jazz Corner or Bar Grez.

Finally, if its not to late one of the best places to go in Santiago Chile is near the coast. Santiago is not far from the Pacific and that means super-fresh seafood. Cap off your day in Santiago with some great sushi or a classic Chilean seafood stew which prominently features crab legs and tasty vegetables.

There is really so much more to do in Santiago that it really warrants a good long visit so for more information on what to do in Santiago, check out Easter Island Chile.