Alejandra Pau reports for Pagina Siete:
Bolivian food tastes like miscegenation in an anthology book
Researcher Beatriz Rossells traces the history of gastronomy. Rescue native products and culinary traditions to explain their current reinvention.
The researcher and historian Beatriz Rossells during the interview.
That attempt of the Spaniards to disappear the indigenous culture during the Colony and with it their original products failed. These resisted and were incorporated into the recipes which until then were strict preparations of the Spanish. The miscegenation thus achieved that Bolivian food remains with the best of both worlds and whose memory is rescued in the Anthology of Bolivian Gastronomy, the most recent work of historian and researcher Beatriz Rossells.
The Cookbook by Josepha de Escurrechea, countess of Otavi and Marquesa de Cayara (1776).
The publication edited by the Bicentennial Library of Bolivia, and whose first edition is practically sold out, makes it clear, through compilation and research, that Bolivian gastronomy at present is the result of the miscegenation of indigenous and European peoples, dating from the colonial period.
“The recipes allow us to save the most important information from different periods and then assemble this story in a scientific way because it is about verifying and analyzing all the ingredients that are entering Bolivian food through time, its external influences and between regions,” pinpoints Rossells to Pagina Siete.
Anthology of the Bolivian Gastronomy does not stay in the past, the fundamental ingredients and the colonial preparations, but it makes a journey until the 21st century that develops in three parts: history, chronic and recipe book, the latter with 277 preparations.
Corn is one of the pillars of Bolivian food.
The chronicle section includes writers and novelists such as Alcides Arguedas, Ramón Rocha Monroy, Rita del Solar, Lupe Andrade and a fragment of the book Vidas y Muertes by Jaime Saenz, among others.
Kitchen, a construction space
“The kitchen is a space of construction of meanings, an archive of historical elements, a witness of everyday life, as well as a vessel of affections, memories and values,” writes the historian in the Anthology …
For Rossells, the identity of Bolivian gastronomy cannot be defined with a dish or three and this is an issue that is currently under debate.
The potato is a constant in the food of the country.
“Those of us who deal with gastronomy say that there are several (dishes) and this is due to the richness of food, but also the process of miscegenation to the history of several centuries in which food has been mixed and, in that historical process that is very deep, the people of each region are choosing their favorite flavors,” highlights the anthologist.
Corn, chili pepper, potato and three recipes
Potato, chuño, corn, ají [chili] and quinoa stand out among the main products originating in the Andes and valleys of Bolivia and, therefore, have an important section in the Anthology … in which their history is described, its appearance in documents of the Colony in addition to its ritual, symbolic and nutritional value and, in turn, the social and historical relevance in the development of society. All this without neglecting aquatic products, especially fish.
The fish that are eaten in Bolivia have a section in the literary work.
Rossells indicates in this work that she recovers historical information from three important periods through recipes that allow us to know what was happening with Bolivian food. These are the Cookbook of Josepha de Escurrechea, countess of Otavi and Marquesa de Cayara (1776); Manuel Camilo Crespo’s Kitchen Manual (1880); and the Cooking Recipes Book by Sofía Urquidi (1917).
“Here is the surprise. Mondongo, charquecán, tamales, various peppers, potosina pot -also called cooked-, chicha, empanadas, humintas and chorizos are present in the three recipes; that is, in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There is already a selection of Bolivian foods from the 18th century that will be maintained until the 21st century. It is extraordinary to find these ancient roots and understand how these preparations have enchanted people so much,” says the researcher.
During the colonial period that corresponds to Mrs. Josepha’s recipe book, it reflects the old European cuisine with characteristics of medieval origin. The manuscript includes preparations dating from the fourteenth century with ingredients that have now disappeared from foods such as musk, amber and orange blossom.
Chili pepper [ají] is another fundamental food in Bolivia.
The 19th century and modernization
In the nineteenth century through the book of Crespo it is observed that the tastes of Bolivians had already consolidated at least in the Andean area of the country; chili, potatoes, fish and vegetables, such as achojcha, were consumed a lot; but there were also moments of change.
“In this period the food underwent a process of modernization of the kitchen very strong and that is fundamental for the studies of the world gastronomy. The kitchen is parallel to the political and economic changes,” argues the anthology-writer.
Of the salteña and other myths
The publication also contains revealing data such as that the salteña is the broth empanada, that the recipe did not arrive in Bolivia by women arriving from Salta, in Argentina, nor was it invented by the 19th-century Argentine writer, and author of Eclectic Cuisine, Juana Manuela Gorriti.
The salteña, formerly called broth empanada, includes chili and potato, and its elaboration is purely Bolivian. Proof of this is that in the recipe book written by Mrs. Josepha, where Potosi is currently located, the inclusion of these ingredients to the preparation of the pie, as well as the crimp, already appears.
Another interesting fact is that the beans that most consider native have their origin in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
“We are playing the future”
Today there is a new gastronomic revolution that tries to revalue the original ingredients and a group of Bolivian chefs have been there for some years.
“We are playing the future of food in Bolivia. Until a few years ago that future was founded on the meat of cattle, now we know the terrible effects that this has on the planet (…). That is also why this global movement of gastronomy that is currently focused on rescuing native foods that are healthier,” says Rossells.
In that sense, the present is the ideal time to transform consumption patterns that affect people’s health.
So while that space for cooking continues to witness the daily life and history of the country, since before the creation of Bolivia, the kitchen remains the place where much more than food is prepared.