January 22, 2013
South America is a continent composed of twelve countries and one French colony. The Spanish-speaking countries are: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. The former colonies of Guyana and Suriname use English and Dutch, respectively, as their official languages, although many in their populations speak relatively same languages. The same can be said for the French colony of Guiana, the home of the cayenne pepper, where French is the official language. The geography of South America is even more varied than that of North America, with long coastlines, lowlands, highlands and mountains, and tropical rain forests. The climate varies from tropical, lying as it does across the Equator, to alpine in the high Andes, the backbone of it.
The cuisine of South America reflects this rich diversity of culture and geography. The local cookeries of pre-Columbian South America have gradually come together with imported cuisines from Europe and Asia. While the Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced their own culinary traditions to the native peoples of South America, indigenous ingredients changed the cuisines of the Old World. The South American contributions included chocolate, vanilla, maize which is corn, hot peppers called aji in South America, guavas, sweet potatoes, manioc called cassava in South America, tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, beans, squash, peanuts, quinine, and papayas, as well as turkeys.
Maize plays a key role in the cuisine of South America, and it is clearly different from the maize now grown in the Old World, grown mostly obvious in its larger kernels. The potato is another vegetable indigenous to South America that has played an important role in cooking worldwide. There are also many vegetables in South America largely unknown beyond the continent, including ahipa, arracacha, maca, yacon, olluco, and oca.
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