Merken, ( Merquen, ) Mapuche and Bolano
By coincidence, but with pleasure, I write today that Robert Bolano was a poet who was an author who wrote about poetry but never published it in his books and his book, a debateable magnus opus but certainly intended to be such is for the second year running one of the NY Times top ten books of the year and he chose to name his child Lautaro, who was a Mapuche leader mythologized in Chile like maybe Bolano will be in America and they are united by Nicanor Parra, who wrote that one of the most important four poets of Chile ( there were only two and neither was from Chile ) was from Spain, Alonso de Ercilla, who wrote that epic and descriptive poem about Lautaro, who fended off the Spaniards and gave rise to the myth of the Mapuches who currently in the Chilean countryside, arinconados, they find refuge from police acting upon Lagos-era laws allowing injudicious actions against those too easily classified as terrorists, as well as their own sense of shame for their lack of a normal last name, by the standards of the colonizers who now all have second homes on La Playa.
But what do the Mapuche have (for us)? They have Merquen. They have what we, the huinkas, can consume. Oh, how appropriate. Merquen, per the Miami Herald.
“Merkén is a ground mixture of dried, smoked ají cacho de cabra, a Chilean pepper that looks a bit like the Mexican guajillo, and seasonings that include cumin, coriander seeds and salt. One of my favorite Latin ingredients, this paprika-like blend adds heat, intense smoky flavor, saltiness and subtle aroma to everything from soups and braises to table salsas.”
So yes, stilllifeinbuenosaires, THIS, is a gourmet product from Chile besides wine, in the spirit of the people as the ultimate gourmands, genius and delicacy arising from necessity and availability. Like paprikash in Hungary or the multiple ways Mexican use tortillas and eggs and tomato and chile, the Mapuche have used the toasted chile and spice that all our mothers in the United States, or even in Santiago, ask for from the Chilean countryside when it is available.
See the Miami Herald for their guide to this, new “Chilean treasure,” and its history.
I quote from the end of the article:
“When I use artisanal merkén from the Araucanía, the Mapuche heartland, I am not only keeping the spirit of the ruka and its smoky hearth alive, but also the collective will of a tenacious people who have won the right to live on and leave their mark.”
So, stilllifeinbuenosaires, your question. What else is there that is gourmet in Chile besides wine? It depends upon the packaging, but I would argue that everything that is raw is gourmet. See this NY Times article.
But truthfully, I think that officially wine is the only gourmet item that Chileans have to offer. Why? Because just recently did the local industry decide to propose an appelation system for the regions where their wine is produced.
OH, I can smell the terroir in the morning air!
ps. On this day in Chilean history, Cnn Chile is launched.