Ham and Cheese Again

It’s a good thing we enjoy a good ham and cheese sandwich. On our recent trip to Argentina and Patagonia, we were amazed at the ubiquity of this tasty combination.

On a mountain top, overlooking the lakes of Bariloche, Argentina, California Native founder Lee Klein enjoys the view and another ham and cheese sandwich.On our very first day in Buenos Aires, exhausted from jet lag and very hungry, we stopped at an empanada stand. Empanadas are a staple of Argentinian food. Basically, they are dough folded around a filling and baked. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. The available fillings were meat, onions and cheese, or ham and cheese. We opted for the latter. Delicious! OK, it was the first day, but we found a great lunch. Along the way, in other towns, we stopped in grocery stores, bakeries, etc. and ham and cheese was the filling we could consistently count on for empanadas.

As we traveled through the country, on most of our excursions, hikes, and sightseeing walks, a sack lunch was usually included. In the bags were an abundance of items—fruits, chips, salads, snacks and a ham and cheese sandwich.

Because of the size of the Country, it is often necessary to fly from one place to another. We flew on Aerolineas Argentinas, a nice domestic airline that goes everywhere. On each domestic flight, no matter the distance, we were served—you guessed it—a ham and cheese sandwich (with a sweet dessert).

So, we are walking along and exploring a town on our own, and decide to stop at a restaurant or cafe for lunch. Maybe just pick up a quick sandwich? Looking at the menu under sandwiches, there are several options: ham and cheese, ham, cheese, ham and cheese and egg, ham and cheese and tomato, ham and egg…well you get the picture. Substitute the word “Spam” for “ham” and you have a Monty Python routine.

Why so much ham? Much of the cuisine in Argentina comes from the Spanish and Italian immigrants, and hams were very popular in both countries.

Rolling through the countryside and looking at the farmland, we see lots of cows (explaining the cheese and the milk in the wonderful cafe con leche), sheep, horses and other animals, but the one animal that seems to be missing is a pig. I guess all the hams are out to lunch!

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