January 10, 2019 #ChileDiverse

The "Once", a traditional meal of the Chilean people

Perhaps one of the most popular and traditional meals for Chileans. It is the time when family and friends get together to share, besides enjoying many products that make the end of the working day even sweeter.

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What constitutes an eleven?

Unlike other countries that usually offer a great feast at dinner time, in Chile we fill the table with food at eleven o'clock. One of the most traditional elements is the cup of tea, or in some cases coffee, which accompanies the rest of the food; among which we cannot fail to mention the bread, either marraqueta, hallulla or a delicious kneaded bread. Eleven is not complete without this food.

As an accompaniment to bread, there are many options, from butter, cheese and ham, to more elaborate options such as ground avocado, tomatoes or scrambled eggs. But to counteract the salty taste of these meals, many people add to the table some kind of sweet, either kuchen, cake or pastries, such as the traditional chilenito. It is worth mentioning that in winter other pastries are added to the table, either in the form of sopaipillas or calzones rotos.

Where does the name come from?

Although in other countries there are similar variations, these are usually called "tea time" or "merienda", it is only in Chile that this meal is known by the name of a number, especially when it is not held at 1:00 am or 1:00 pm.

There are several theories about the beginning of this term, some say that it originally came from the British tradition known as "elevenses", a meal that took place at mid-morning, specifically at 11 o'clock, and that later changed its timetable with the passage of time, while others say that the name is due to a group of mothers, consisting of 11 ladies, who met during the afternoon to drink tea, eat and socialize.

But undoubtedly, the theory that is gaining strength is directly related to the work of the saltpeter workers during the 19th century, who would get together to drink aguardiente, but instead of saying the name as such due to the restrictions of the time, they would say that they were going to "drink eleven", since the word aguardiente has a total of 11 letters.

Photo of Once by Ronald Henriquez.

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