After pondering upon this topic for a few days, I finally realized that I was able to become accustomed to many of the Chilean traditions, but those which I either refuse to adapt to or find it hard to, are all related to the kitchen.
One thing that I’m not a fan of here is the fact most Chilean households wash their dishes in cold water with little-to-no soap at all. I don’t know how many times I’ve witnessed “washing” a spoon to be just rinsing it off in cold water, no soap, no nothing…just cold water. Hmmm….right, that doesn’t seem like it will kill the germs to me. And just think about when you’re dealing with raw meat. Yuck.
Now, the thing I absolutely detest and cannot handle is that fact that they do not refrigerate meat (cooked or otherwise) much in this country. I remember when I finally started picking up on this living with my host family. I started noticing that when we ate left-overs, my host mom would take them out of the oven. And no, she wasn’t reheating it up in the oven because she always proceeded to put the food in the microwave. I began realizing that she used our oven as storage for food that she cooked 8 hours prior, or the day before, etc. I might understand this habit if we had not had a working refrigerator, but we most certainly did. And there was space to squeeze in the food. My suegra does the same thing. I can’t eat her empanadas except for right after she makes them because they always sit out on the counter for days until they are eaten.
It is very typical here to use any space you have as storage…and with good reason since most apartments and houses are tiny. BUT, if you have space in your fridge, you should store your food there instead of inside the oven. Perhaps they do it because people aren’t used to having a fridge (speaking to the older generations), or perhaps because they find it too hard to heat up cold meat without a microwave. That too could be a valid reason, but I’d rather eat a cold empanada than one that has been sitting out for a day and a half. And just for the record, I don’t have a microwave in my house so I deal with reheating food issues all of the time.
Back when I was studying abroad, I would come up with reasons as to why I wasn’t hungry or didn’t want to eat. Or sometimes, I just bit the bullet, put the thoughts out of my head and eat the food. Obviously I didn’t die, and I can’t really recall ever getting super sick…but I also had a very different mindset back then. Everything was an adventure on study abroad and I figured, “what the hell, if it doesn’t kill me it’ll make for a good story.” That mindset lasted for about 6 months until things started to calm down, nothing really seemed new anymore, and living here became normal life. That is when the food issues started surfacing as I was eating at home more instead of going out with friends, and I was becoming more and more grossed out with meat as time went on. Plus I remember horror stories from other study abroaders who got horribly sick thanks to an empanada they bought at some random place.
From what I understand, cooked meat will not go bad as quickly as leaving raw meat out. But I think more than a time span of lunch-to-dinner is too much time out of the fridge. I just can’t handle that one. I’m too picky of a meat eater and too much of a germ-a-phob when it comes to food to give in on this topic. Luckily now that I am living in my own house with my husband, I can put everything in the fridge if I want too. And I do.
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