Latin American Cuisine
An Overview of Latin American Cuisine
Latin America spans two continents, coastlines and hemispheres. Its food is as varied and rich as the cultures and countries that comprise the region itself. With flavors ranging from spicy to sweet, the diversity of tastes and textures in Latin American cuisine is a gastronomical delight. Certain items-such as maize-based dishes (tortillas, tamales and pupusas) and starches like rice and beans-can be found throughout Latin American food, as can spices such as chilies, onions and garlic. Various types of cheeses from cows, and desserts like rice pudding and the caramel-like dulce de leche are also popular throughout the region.
The predominant animal-based protein in Latin American cuisine, however, varies depending on geography. In Mexico and Central America, beef, chicken and pork all constitute part of the national diet. In countries in the northern part of the South American continent, such as Peru and Bolivia, seafood is consumed frequently, culminating in the world-renowned dish of ceviche. While the southern end of the continent is also home to shores that yield rich seafood items such as King crab, lobster and Atlantic krill, the area's cool plains make it ideal for cattle grazing. Thus, beef is a popular and virtually daily staple, along with a less frequent but nonetheless substantial consumption of lamb and venison.
Extreme poverty in certain regions is responsible for the largely grain-based diets of residents of rural areas, as grains are relatively inexpensive to grow and harvest, but Latin American cuisine is generally not vegetarian or vegan.