I’m partial to a good savoury snack. One day I might fancy prawn cocktail crisps for lunch, or a packet of salt and vinegar always goes well with a beer. Some fun, sweet chilli Ritz crackers always go down well with a film and bottle of wine. Little cocktail sausages are a must at a picnic. I choose my flavour and type of savoury snack to suit my activity or mood. It makes life a little bit more exciting. A bit more diverse.
People who live in Argentina are unlikely to ever get such flamboyancy. Here, your choices are made for you.
If you want a crisp, it’s plain, ham, cheese or nothing. Condiments to mix it up a bit? You’ve got mustard, mayonnaise or ketchup. Fancy adding some herbs and spices to spruce up a dip? You’ve got garlic, fake chilli and parsley. Sandwich filling? Ham, cheese or nothing. Something savoury to go with your bread at breakfast? Ham, cheese or, if you’re really, really lucky, egg. That’s as exciting as the savoury aisles get in a supermarket.
Having thought about this long and hard I’ve come to the conclusion that life in Argentina revolves around maté. Maté is a bitter, green tea that basically requires you to eat sweet things while drinking it to disguise its assault on your taste buds.
(Well I didn’t really think that hard, you just need to walk anywhere in Argentina and I guarantee you will find someone hauling round a giant flask and an open top cup that they fill with mate and hot water, and drink through a straw. Rather impractical in my opinion.)
As a result, the food industry seems to have completely shelved any flavour development in the savoury section and focused its efforts on competing in the sweet aisles. There are shelves of cakes, biscuits, pepinos, alfajores and so on. Only, the thing that disappoints me with this is that, again, there seems to be hardly any diversity in sweet flavour. It’s dulce de leche, jam or chocolate. This for me isn’t such of a big problem because if something is sweet it just tastes of sugar anyway.
This might be a result of our low-budget eating, but even when we’ve tried to splash out it’s difficult to find a bit of variance. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places or maybe I’ve been spoiled in the UK. Either way, I’m certain these people deserve more.
As a foodie, this has been rather monotonous. I guess it’s because I don’t understand it, almost as much as I don’t understand the maté cups they drink from.
Honestly, I’d love to know why Argentines settle for a choice of three flavours, because the second thing on my list for mum and dad to bring out with them when they join us in Sydney is quickly becoming a six-pack of different flavour crisps. (In case you’re wondering, the first thing is a tin of baked beans.)
This just highlights for me the amount of choice we are given in the UK, and not just about flavoured snacks. We have a great diversity across our whole nation and we should do everything we can to protect and nurture that. Shame we’re in such a Brexit shambles. Won’t somebody think of the snacks?!
Mind you, the selection of wine and steak in Argentina are top notch. Maybe it’s just that Argentinians have gone for the Homer Simpson or Mark Zuckerberg approach to limiting unnecessary choices and one day they will rule the world. Doubt that though.