CHILE: Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra

Alejandro Zambra’s Ways of Going Home is a slim novel (really a novella) but it’s got such complexity to its layers that I feel like I need to sit down and read it through a second time. The novel fluctuates and blends two levels of narrative – a novel within a novel, but with characters and experiences merging or influencing each other. It’s very poetic, touching look at childhood in the late Pinochet era, but with the feeling of a childhood on the sidelines, and the search for meaning as an adult.

CHILE: Chilean wine

Here in Canada, Chile is most famous for its wines – every wine shop has a selection on Chilean wines, mainly reds. While I do like wine, I’m not particularly a wine connoisseur, so I’ve pulled in someone who is – my dad! I’m in Vancouver right now, staying with my parents, so my dad went to JAK’s to pick some Chilean wines that we’ve never tried before.

Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère – Tarapacá is one of Chile’s oldest still-producing wineries, with over 145 years active. They’re located in the Maipo valley, the heartland of Chile’s wine country. As for the taste, I found it’s big red, lots of berry notes and a bit of spice, but not chewy. My dad’s take: “Horrible bouquet but excellent taste, lots of tannins without being too heavy”.

Emiliana Adobe Chardonnay Reserva – I genuinely wasn’t aware that Chile made white wines, I’m so used to seeing rows and rows of red. I really like this one, since it tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than a chardonnay, with a tart green grape fruitiness. Dad was on the same page too: “good non-oak chard, has the nose of a New Zealand sauv blanc, grassy taste.” It’s from the Casablanca valley, near Valparaiso.

Undurraga Sibaris Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon – Also from Maipo. Fruity red with a lot of tannin in the aftertaste. Dad’s take: “very light for a cab sauv”.

CHILE: Pebre

Pebre has been described as somewhere between pico de gallo and chimichurri – a fresh salsa-ish sauce made from onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and chilies. It seems to be an ubiquitous topping in Chile – and it’s really versatile! There are infinite variations, but most rely on aji chileno – a pepper that’s a bit hard to find outside of Chile. Interestingly, a lot of recipes from Chilean ex-pats point to sriracha as a decent substitute flavour-wise. The recipe I’m using is from La Fuji Mama – it’s a family recipe from Santiago.

I should have minced the ingredients down a bit further, but I don’t think that’ll undermine the dish too much. This is great; it’s a punchy, bold sauce – lots of bite from the garlic, green onion, and decently spicy too. I decided to test it out on some plain fried eggs – that was even better, since I left the yolks nice and runny and that mixed well with the juice from the sauce. I’ll definitely be using up this whole bowl of pebre!

CHILE: Completo with jote

I’m in Vancouver right now, so I stopped by a new Chilean restaurant downtown – Puro Chile on Denman. They’ve got all kinds of Chilean fast food, including big meat sandwiches, hot dogs, and mixed drinks. It’s a great spot – the staff was really lovely and friendly. They’ve also got South American football going on a screen (Colombia vs Argentina, with many yellow cards!)

I ordered a completo – a big hot dog topped with sauerkraut, fresh tomato, and mayo. It was delightfully messy and hit the spot. Sauerkraut is a common topping in Chile, coming with the waves of German immigration in the 19th century.

I washed my completo down with a big glass of jote (“black vulture”) – a mixed drink that’s half red wine, half Coke. And it….was actually pretty good! The wine tones down the sweetness of the Coke, and it turns into it’s own unique brew, like a spicy sweet wine. It’s popular with students in different parts of the world – it’s called kalimotxo in Spain and motorină (“diesel fuel”) in Romania.

CHILE: Atacama and space

The Atacama desert in northern Chile is one of the driest places on earth, which has made it an incredibly valuable place for scientific research into space – it’s also an absolutely stunning place. I’d encourage you to sit back and put the below video on full screen. Jaw dropping.

The dryness of the Atacama lends itself to space research in a few ways. The dryness, elevation, and isolation means that it has spectacularly clear skies – perfect for telescopes.

The unique conditions also are as close to Mars as you will get on this planet, so research is ongoing on what kind of life can live in this extreme climate (see the below video), as well as serving as a place of NASA to test its rovers. A lot of work on the Perseverance rover currently active on Mars was trialed in the Atacama.

CHILE: Podcasts

Valparaiso – Source

I’ve found an interesting variety of podcasts about Chile so far – unfortunately, they’re almost all from non-Chileans or expats. I can’t seem to find podcasts by Chileans in English (it’s not that widely spoken there), but this selection of podcasts does give a lot of interesting colour and context!

Wine 101: Chile – A brief look at the history of Chile’s wine industry, and a discussion of the huge variety of, well, varietals that are grown there today.

The Chile Today Podcast – This is the closest I got to a Chilean podcast in English – a pair of American expats living in Santiago sharing both news and tidbits about life in Chile. I listened to a recent episode that covered both elections, and several things in Chile that ex-pats may find challenging – mail, making new friends, Chilean Spanish, etc. An interesting linguistic point is that “carne” usually means “red meat”, so vegetarians may still be served shrimp or chicken!

BBC Cold War: Stories from the Big Freeze – The Coup in Chile – Part of BBC’s extensive history podcast on the Cold War, an overview of the CIA-backed coup that brought Pinochet the power, including testimony from witnesses and from Americans involved.

Summer In The Mix 2017 – For a music break, enjoy these dance mixes from Chilean DJ Danilo Perkelman for Flash FM, a techno/EDM radio station.

AQ Podcast: Chile’s Uncertain Future – A discussion with a Chilean political scientist over the recent elections and the decision to introduce a new constitution. It’s a conservative and market-focused discussion, but it raises interesting comparisons to constitutional change and issues of economic stability in other Latin American countries.

BBC Discovery: Megadrought in Chile – BBC investigating the serious drought conditions that have persisted in parts of Chile for now about a decade – natural cycles sent into overdrive by climate change. They also speak with Chilean experts and scientists about how people are attempting to adapt to the drought and the water restrictions (or lack thereof) in place.

CHILE: Pride and marriage

An optimistic start to Pride Month, the Chilean president announced this week he would back an equal marriage bill:

That being said, he’s the outgoing president, and this bill has been stalled in the Chilean Congress since 2017, so while it is a very positive step, who knows what the political reality will be. LGBTQ rights have been steadily improving over the past decade in Chile, though of course there’s still work to be done (as in any country – Chile got rid of its blood ban back in 2013, while Canada still hasn’t).

That being said, there’s serious positive momentum for equal rights, and Santiago has a really awesome-looking Pride parade every year – I’d love to go!