Once Upon A Time …

It’s tea time.

Pero en realidad, nosotros debemos estar comiendo la comida pero mi familia anfitriona no está teniendo una comida normal esta noche (But really, we should be eating dinner, but my host family is not having a normal dinner tonight).

We just had Once – en España (Spain), it would be probably called ‘la merienda’.

It’s an informal tea time for Chileans in the afternoon to early evening (6:00 pm). It’s helpful for foreigners (¡Yo!) because Chileans eat very late at night. For example, last night’s asado (barbecue) began at around 9:45 pm and ended (after I went to sleep) at 2:00 am. This puts something in my belly, so I don’t waste away until the late hours.

It wouldn’t be Once without Manjar! (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

The foods normally served during Once are cold cuts (deli meats), butter, manjar (un chilenismo que significa dulce de leche), bread, tea, coffee, and at times a small salad of tomatoes/lettuce/lemon. It’s delicious. Once produces the best, dare I say perfect, sandwich materials.

Once in Spanish means eleven. In my CultureShock! book, they give three compelling theories about where this meal’s name comes from:

1. From elevenses (British Biscuits) eaten during their iconic tea time.

2. It mimics the time the British usually have their tea (at 11 a.m.).

3. During Once, some men drink aguardiente (an alcoholic beverage) in the kitchen to avoid the tea and coffee. Aguardiente has eleven letters – so they are drinking ‘Once’.

Whatever the origin, I love Once, and so do the Chileans. It’s great these first few days because it’s a casual time for me to get to know my family. When I am back in the States, I am definitely going to sit down around 6 o’clock at night, whip out some bread and butter, boil some water for tea, and have my own Once.

I know you all think my eating habits are fascinating, so I will be sure to keep you updated about my experiences with Chilean cuisine. Also since I am in Chile, my posts will be including much more Spanish here and there. Enjoy! *The Chilean CultureShock! book is available online (Amazon), I highly recommend checking it out!