What is a Cazuelita?


"I understand for homemade flavor, a very special taste that takes a recipe due to: the fire and the stove where is prepared, the bowl or pan on which it is cooked, the atmosphere where it is marinated and seasoned, the magic given by the hand that prepares it, which in other words means, the love and submission put into it"

Julian Estrada (Anthropologist. Author of "Mantel de Cuadros"

- "Checkered Tablecloth, 1995).

- "Daddy, I'm hungry," complained my son when I picked him up at Day care. It was late afternoon, and the blue and orange lines on the sky appear before our eyes as the omen of a good night.

- "What do you feel like eating son?" I replied while driving on our way home, leaving behind the neon signs of McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell.

The boy looked askance, and with anxiety, fast food offerings. He knew that the same type of menu was waiting at home, because her mother had been working outside all day.

- "A hamburger, Daddy," he said without thinking.

At that moment, I felt the pain of the distant. I did not want my son, who was born far away from my homeland, to lose one of the most significant legacies of his Latin origin: the classic or popular Latin meals.

The kitchen, I reflected, is a big revolution, transforms the products offered by nature and, at the same time, the society itself. The act of preparing a dish unites people around shared meals, at certain times. The kitchen unites people.

- "I'd give anything for a Cazuelita (casserole)!" I exclaimed, as if possessed by the voice of my grandparents.

- "What?" Whispered my child, frowning. A brief call from the stomach, took us to a long story….

Good eating is like "coming back home"

Upon arriving home, while resting on the rocking chair, I closed my eyes to evoke the sounds, smells and tastes of other days .… I thought of the pot with water boiling sugar cane, a drink of steaming morning coffee or hot chocolate milkshake with grinder; the pot to cook the corn, and then, the scent of corn cakes on the grill, or ripe bananas on the pan..…

The food is not only what is served at the table, it certainly has a dimension related to the senses, which can only be rescued by the active memory.

Contrary to popular belief, gastronomy is not a privilege of developed countries. Anthropologists and sociologists have found that, at present, there are communities or towns which do not know what Internet is, have not even seen a computer, neither telephones nor airplanes. Moreover, there are still groups of people without writing.

But it is impossible to find a town without culinary culture: we all have a particular form of cooking a dish or a classic meal.

Along with the language, the kitchen is the cultural ambassador par excellence. Between pots and stoves, a daily demonstration of culture is cooked, with such force in the national identity that can overcome deep ideological concepts as the flag, coat of arms or national anthem.

¿Exaggerated? Try to describe in detail the elements of the coat of arms of your country....

Now, do the same exercise with the ingredients of your favorite dish....

What is a “Cazuelita” (casserole)?

For centuries, the act of cooking was dominated by the patience and simmer. The elementary difference between animal feed and that of men comes at the moment when men dominate and use fire as transforming agent for their food.

What we casually call "roast" (“asado”) is the pioneer of universal kitchen. Roast is followed by boiled food, which has two additional requirements besides heat: water and a container that contains it. The "utencilio" (utensil or bowl), dinner plate or cazuela (casserole), maintain a close relationship to other elements necessary to get the food, such as arcs, fishhooks, pottery, baskets and farm tools.

"Sírvamela en el cazo!" (“Put it in the pot!"), was the voice that ran in the corridors of colonial estates, before dinner time.

The word "cazuela" comes from the eighteenth century, from the French word "casserole", diminutive of pot. Some linguists insist that the term is of Greek origin: "kyathion", short for "kyathos", which translates pot or little cup. In French, the "sauce pan" is a large deep pot, which is used for both, to bring food to the oven as well as a serving dish. The word "cazuela" also refers to food cooked and served in this container.

Sonia Montecino, Chilean anthropologist and expert on gastronomy, explains the origin of the name: "The word cazuela is synonymous with the pot in which the stew is prepared and the stew itself; we could also say that 'it contains', for evocation the container in which such stew is served: the cazo or deep bowl.

" The "cazuelas" come from the ancient practice of preparing meat stewed slowly in clay pots. Some types of "cazuelas" are: ragout, hotpot, cassoulet and carbonada.

It is a very popular tendency to confuse the cazuela with the stew (guiso o guisa), however, there is a fundamental difference: the stew is a process of cooking with the heat applied at the bottom of the dish container, while the "casseroling" or cazuela is done in an oven, the heat circulates around it

It is worthwhile mentioning that, by its ingredients and transformation by temperature, “cazuelas” (casseroles) tend to be thicker than a soup. Depending on the size of the serving, the cazuela can be served as main dish or side dish.

In the early eighteenth century, recipes with cazuelas always had rice on the side. However, today, the cazuela consists of a soup with one or more meats and vegetables. In some places people tend to add pasta, potatoes, rice and/or other grains to thicken the broth. Usually, meat is cooked before it passes to the cazuela.

Yes, the colorful sky did not lie: it was a beautiful night.

As a family we went to the dining room. My wife had an unforgettable surprise for us: three “Cazuelitas” were served.
We started to laugh, to mourn, to discuss ... to talk about our daily routine, their sorrows, anxieties, joys and accomplishments.

I grabbed the spoon and, with my eyes half closed, I approache d the thin halo of

smoke from the hot bowl. A very well known sensation came to my memory. It was the nice smell of a "cazuelita".

And it had a unique flavor: taste of home.