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Father Claude

As I was saying.....

I embrace the world from my backyard at the University of Portland, January 1, 2018. I again invite you to "clod-hop" with me on my journeys to Latin America via this blog. More...

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I now propose to talk seafood delights from Southern Chile from where I just returned. iChiloé is part of a collection of island, to the south of Chile, just below Puerto Montt.. The master shucker, standing by the open pit is Don Luis. He is the master cook and organizer of a typical “clam bake” of Southern Chile called a “Curanto”. I am at table with the family of Pablo Ruiz Tagle and neighbors. The “Curanto” is more than a meal. It is a community event. In this case, the “community” where I lived for a week was from the island of Vogues. This specific island is part pf a group of 15 islands to the south of Chiloé. These islands can only be reached by special boats that ferry people, animals and equipment needed for daily living and farming.

To understand Chiloé, — so wonderfully describe by Charles Darwin in his first visit here in 1833 — one needs to share in the local version of a clam bake called a “Curanto”. Let me try. It involves setting fire to burning logs with a large pile of rocks on top of a newly dug hole for several hours. After that time, the rocks are steaming hot. At this point, the remaining wood cinders are quickly removed, the flaming rocks arranged to form a large, flat “table” at the bottom of the pit. In a quick, precise set of coordinated moves, the mollusks, and other foods to be cooked, are piled in successive layers over the stones. These layers are separated by large, green plant leaves. These successive layers consist of various clams, “picorocos”, lamb meat, sausages, potatoes and other foods. After the layered foods have been arranged, water is quickly poured on the edges of the hot stones, creating a huge steam-cloud. This steam is immediately covered with several more layers of leaves to capture the steam and hold it inside the layered foods.THE ENTIRE PROCESS TOOK JUST UNDER 4 MINUTES. One hour later, after generous servings of wine and champagne, the food is well cooked and served in enormous quantities.

Although we were only 11 for this “curanto” feast, a huge amount of all kinds of mollusks remained. After the feast, the mollusks are all carefully collected and properly stored, to be eaten during the long, cold, rainy winter to follow in June, July and August.

Of all the delicious seafood, I single out the one, unique mollusk that is found only in this part of southern Chile and Argentina, the weirdly amazing and delicious “Austromegabalanus Psittacus”, also known as “picorocos” — and not “picorojo” as I mispronounced it, to the enormous delight of my Chilean family. (ask someone who’s been to Chile).

The “picoroco” is a mollusk of the crustacean family that lives in a rock-like shell with its beak sticking out (like a little bishops mitre hat). Once steamed, it can be pulled out of its shell and popped open into an umbrella-like delight of pulpy, sweat, tender meat. Although I am allergic to crustaceans, for some strange reason I am not allergic to the “picoroco” I consumed an insane quantity and survived.

There’s so much more to be said about the delights of Chiloe, that — apologies to Charles Darwin — I’ll need another posting.

Until then, “buen provecho”
Permalink | Thursday, January 25, 2018