Central American sour cream stand-off, Markets in everything

by on August 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm in Education, Food and Drink | Permalink

Following a perceptive query from Kevin Drum, I bought and sampled sour creams from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, all from my local Mundo Latino supermarket.

The Honduran cream had a taste and consistency somewhat like that of the El Salvadoran cream.  Yet the cream from El Salvador was sweeter in a nice way; this came more to the fore when each cream was combined with a tamale.  The Guatemalan cream tasted noticably worse than either — flatter, heavier, and less tart/tangy.  Its label indicated it had a much higher level of saturated fat and cholesterol.

The Mexican cream was different altogether.  One Kevin Drum reader commented:

Mexican crema is yellowish and buttery. Salvadoran is whiter and tangier. American is lighter, firmer and more yogurty.

Of the creams from El Salvador, the best ones are in the small plastic bags, not the plastic containers.  If you have the feeling you don't know how to store the thing once you open it, that's the one you should buy.

Those are the supermarket brands.  The very best sour cream I've had was in Nicaragua, where the poverty and underdevelopment have kept the food supply chain shorter and fresher, albeit at the cost of higher food prices relative to real wages.  San Salvador has much more fast food than does Managua, for instance.  But they don't have mass produced Nicaraguan sour cream in my local supermarket, perhaps because relatively few Nicaraguans live in northern Virginia.

Here is comment from a retailer who appreciates the diversity of the creams.

charlie August 26, 2010 at 6:15 pm

This is a great post and I think Tyler should write about food more.

BAM August 26, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Re: Sour Cream packaging, why don’t they sell sour cream in squeezable tubes a la mustard & ketchup? Please enlighten.

Ben August 26, 2010 at 7:16 pm

“…where the poverty and underdevelopment have kept the food supply chain shorter and fresher, albeit at the cost of higher food prices relative to real wages”

The higher food prices help to keep food prices high

Peter August 26, 2010 at 9:15 pm

One of the supermarkets near me carries crema in the Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran versions. It’s my impression that the Honduran and Guatemalan versions are slightly less expensive than the other two. I’d tentatively say that the Salvadoran one is the best.

Natasha Cowen August 26, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Vanya, thank you. I wholeheartedly agree.

liberalarts August 27, 2010 at 6:40 am

I agree that this is interesting. This post pretty much dooms Tyler’s chances of being elected president. A good candidate knows the price of milk as his connection to the middle America. Knowing and writing about subtle variations in sour creams is orthogonal to milk price knowledge.

The Dirty Mac August 27, 2010 at 11:56 am

“The very best sour cream I’ve had was in Nicaragua, where the poverty and underdevelopment have kept the food supply chain shorter and fresher, albeit at the cost of higher food prices relative to real wages.”

Yes, poverty is a great way to keep those food miles low.

liberalarts August 27, 2010 at 8:26 pm

@coupdetat: Anything sold in grocery stores to recent immigrants cannot be compared to Panda Express. While in graduate school I too traveled through central America one summer, and there are clear differences across the countries of central America.

mdesus August 30, 2010 at 5:18 pm

I am the current head of purchasing for one of the largest dairies in mexico. What I can tell you about sour cream in general, and specifically that of latino america, is that even if it does not say so on the container it almost certainly contains non-dairy products. This is especially true if the crema is from a corporation rather than purchased direct from the pueblo.

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