Another lazy day in Pirque and I’m beginning to settle into the rural lifestyle. Lemur-in-law has a gorgeous garden and even though Pirque is technically a suburb of Santiago, it feels like a million miles from the city. The surrounding area is full of vineyards and walnut trees, and the garden itself grows almonds, quinces, apricots and more.

I’m enough of a city mouse to be impressed by seeing recognisable fruits and vegetables growing on trees. A friend of mine was horrified as a child by the idea of eating a tomato that had grown in the ground (dirty!) rather than coming from the supermarket, and though this is the sort of alienation from the land that we all try to combat these days, I think those of us with an urban background can still carry a trace of amazement that things actually grow on trees. So, I wandered around the garden excited to see apples and avocados ripening all around me.

Lemur-in-law makes apricot jam, membrillo, and apple jelly from the fruits in her garden, although sitting out on the verandah, it’s hard to imagine doing anything more strenuous than mixing another batch of pisco sours and picking up something from the village for lunch. That’s pretty much what we did today, with another Chilean favourite – humitas – for lunch.

Chilean humitas are an Andean staple somewhat similar to Mexican tamales – they’re made from corn masa mixed with onion, herbs and milk and steamed in corn husks. But while tamales are often stuffed with pork or other fillings, humitas are served plain, with toppings to bring the sweet corn flavour alive. Traditional toppings in Chile include sugar, salt, chopped ají or pebre. I understand the concept of the sugar, as South American corn is not so sweet as the North American or European type, but it still seems a bit perverse to me to sprinkle sugar on one’s lunch. I don’t have quite the sweet tooth that Chileans have. So, I ate my humitas with salt, ají, pebre and a tomato salad.

Then, it was off to the vineyard to sample another of Chile’s main attractions. But that’s another post…

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