PSA: today, August 25, is Uruguayan Independence Day! Hooray!!
I’m the first to admit I know very little about Uruguay. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Uruguayan. Frankly, I found out about this holiday by flipping through the cat calendars at Barnes and Nobles. But now that I know it’s Uruguay’s Independence Day, how could I not want to learn more? This post is a crash course for all my fellow non-Uruguayans about el Día de la Independencia de Uruguay (and, of course, all the yummy food you can eat in its honor)!
The short story is that Uruguayan Independence Day commemorates the day Uruguay gained official independence from Brazil and Argentina, but the full history is much longer (and much more complicated). Before Uruguay was a nation, it was part of an open region of land inhabited solely by indigenous groups until the sixteenth century. Around that time new groups began to invade (first the Portuguese and Spaniards, and later the Brazilians and future Argentinians), and the region, dubbed “La Banda Oriental,” became a frontline for international power struggle.
When Spain’s monarchy collapsed in the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), other groups jumped at the chance for power over La Banda Oriental. Modern-day Uruguay specifically was swept up in a struggle between Brazil and Argentina. I won’t muddle through the details, but suffice to say that in 1828, both countries signed the Treaty of Montevideo recognizing the independent Uruguay we know today!
To my knowledge, there is no set diet that accompanies Día de la Independencia celebrations in Uruguay, but the nation’s rich cuisine means there are still plenty of foods for us foreigners to explore!
A prime example is chivito, the national dish of Uruguay. According to legend, this sandwich was invented in Punta del Este, Uruguay, by chef Antonio Carbonada. The story goes that Carbonada’s restaurant was frequented by an Argentinian woman who one day requested her favorite sandwich from home. The problem? The woman’s sandwich was made with goat (or in Spanish, chivito), which Carbonada did not have in his Uruguayan kitchen. To please his customer, Carbonada threw together ingredients he had on hand, and the “chivito” was born! These sandwiches are now found all over Uruguay, and though every version is unique, your standard chivito contains thin grilled steak (churrasco), bacon, ham, tomato, lettuce, mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, and a fried or hard-boiled egg. This delicious sandwich is a great pick for an Independence Day celebration– IF you can fit your mouth around it!
Another yummy choice is revuelto gramajo, a traditional dish Uruguay shares with Argentina. Revuelto gramajo is a hash consisting of fried julienned potatoes (or in my lexicon, french fries!), scrambled eggs, ham, cheese, and sometimes vegetables like peas. Mmmm! This sounds like hearty, homey food at its best.
The final food I’ll leave y’all with is torta frita, which translates to “fried bread.” Are those words to make your mouth water or what? The name fits the dish perfectly. Tortas fritas are discs of fried dough usually eaten on rainy days and often served sprinkled with sugar or drizzled with dulce de leche. They are a typical Uruguayan street food, but it is also common for families to whip up a batch at home for a snack. Frankly, they sound like something I’d enjoy any day of the week, so you better believe I’ll use el Día de la Independencia as an excuse to give them a try!
Here’s a simple recipe for revuelto gramajo courtesy of RecetasGratis to get your Uruguayan food adventure started! I’ve translated the original recipe from Spanish, but I left the ingredients in the metric scale to keep it as authentic as possible. The recipe corresponds to the photo earlier in the article. Enjoy, and to all the Uruguayans out there, ¡feliz Día de la Independencia!
Revuelto Gramajo Tradicional
Original recipe by RecetasGratis
Serves: 3 Time: 45 minutes
- 1 kilogram potatoes
- 3 eggs
- 3 slices cooked ham
- 50 grams green peas
- 1 bottle of oil (for frying)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- Peel and finely slice the potatoes, then submerge them in a bowl of cold water until the water grows cloudy. Continue to rinse the potatoes in cold water until the water stays clear. This will remove the starch from the potatoes and result in crispy fries.
- Heat oil in a pot and deep-fry the potatoes.
- While the potatoes fry, cut the ham into thin strips. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oil and put them in a large pan. Mix in the ham.
- Put the pan over medium heat. Add the beaten eggs, then mix continuously with a spatula until the eggs are cooked through.
- Finally, add the peas and mix. Serve hot.